Gold Rush Feature: Bright Future
ACC Freshman of the Year Anna Kozniuk was one of several young Deacons to have success in 2011-12

June 22, 2012

This article was originally published in the July 2012 edition of Gold Rush

By Jay Reddick, Gold Rush

Every season has its defining moments, those special times and athletes that stay with you long after the year is done. 2011-12 certainly had its share.

But when you look back on the year in Wake Forest sports, one of the most promising aspects is the prevalence of underclassmen in the highlight reels. They wowed us once, and next year, many of them will have the chance to do it all again.

Start with what is arguably the year's biggest success story, the women's soccer team. The Deacons advanced further than ever last fall, to the national semifinals, led by a trio of sophomores. After two years, Katie Stengel is already second on WFU's career list of goal-scorers, and classmate Rachel Nuzzolese isn't far behind in 10th. Aubrey Bledsoe's 14 shutouts were five more than anyone else in school history.

But the fall had plenty of highlights. The field hockey squad won 10 of its last 11 games on the strength of ACC Freshman of the Year Anna Kozniuk. Nicole Irving (sophomore) and Garrett Drogosch (junior) led their respective cross-country squads. Men's soccer returned to the NCAA tournament helped by sophomore midfielder Jared Watts, an all-ACC selection. Junior Andrea Beck made the all-conference volleyball team.

And even as the football Deacons saw four departing seniors drafted and several others sign with NFL clubs after a Music City Bowl campaign, the team still returns a solid corps led by standout junior quarterback Tanner Price.

Women's basketball returns leading scorers Chelsea Douglas and Lakevia Boykin, but the biggest news may be another returnee: Jennifer Mitchell Hoover, class of 1991, the team's new coach. The men's hoops squad moved up to ninth in the ACC, with Travis McKie and C.J. Harris sticking around to continue the rise in 2012-13 with the help of seven highly touted freshmen.

In the spring, Brian Holmes turned in a magical moment on March 4 when he pitched a no-hitter against Marshall, the first for the Deacons' baseball program since 2000. The gem came in the middle of a 15-game winning streak that had WFU nationally ranked for the first time in six years. Oh, by the way, Holmes is a junior.

First-year coach Tony Bresky got the most out of a young men's tennis team, including all-ACC returnee Danny Kreyman. The women's tennis squad was plagued by injuries, but that let the troupe of underclassmen get court experience that will help going forward.

Both track teams were dominated by underclassmen. Junior javelin thrower Ben Lincoln qualified for the NCAA championships for the second consecutive year, while sophomore Erika Martin (heptathlon) joined senior Sarah Brobeck (javelin) in grabbing top-five ACC championship finishes.

Both golf squads saw the departure of All-ACC talents in Lee Bedford and Cheyenne Woods, but Jerry Haas' stellar recruiting class and the rise of ACC runner-up Olafia Kristinsdottir on the women's side point to a bright future.

And that's what 2011-12 was about -- a bright future. As good as it was, the best may be yet to come.

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