Wake Forest junior midfielder Jon Bakero scored twice as the second-ranked Demon Deacons defeated Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 2-1, ending the Cougars season in the third round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer National Tournament.
SIUE was one win shy of the NCAA Elite Eight.
"We played a very good team today and one that is going to be in the mix for the National Championship," said SIUE head coach Mario Sanchez.
The Cougars finished the year 10-5-7. The loss also ended what had been a 14-game unbeaten streak for SIUE.
"We knew it was going to take some time," Sanchez said of the Cougars’ run. "It would have been easy to give up (after a slow start). They never stopped trusting us and buying into each other and this program."
Wake Forest improved to 17-2-3 and advances to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive year.
Bakero's game-winner came in the 72nd minute. Luis Argudo rifled a shot from just outside the box. Bakero redirected the shot past SIUE goalkeeper Kyle Dal Santo from just off the far post.
Wake Forest got on the board early in the match, when Bakero buried a side volley in the third minute. Jacori Hayes picked up the assist after lining a pass into the middle from the end line.
SIUE leveled the score just four minutes before halftime after a corner kick. Mathias Ebbesen's initial flick was stopped by Wake goalkeeper Andreu Cases Mundet, but Austin Ledbetter knocked in the rebound to tie the score in his final game as a Cougar.
Andrew Kendall-Moullin, Jason Hackett and Ivan Gutierrez also played their final games for SIUE.
"We can't say enough as to what they have done for the program," Sanchez added. "One of the things they wanted to do was to cement their legacy. In the 'new Division I ear' they have done that. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Sanchez said the returning players have gained from the team's long run.
"You can only talk so much about these types of games," he said. "The only way to get that experience is to play in these games and experience the tempo and the pressure. They performed well especially for a relatively young team."
Dal Santo made four saves. Mundet made two saves for Wake Forest.
"Kyle is one of the top goalkeepers in the country," Sanchez said. "A lot of where we're at we owe to Kyle."