Dec. 11, 2008

FRISCO, Texas (AP) - Top-seeded Wake Forest is favored to repeat as College Cup champion, with fellow Atlantic Coast Conference powers Maryland and North Carolina joined by St. John's of the Big East in trying to stop the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest (23-1-1) meets North Carolina (14-7-1) in Friday's first semifinal of NCAA men's soccer, with ACC tournament champion Maryland (21-3-0) facing St. John's (19-2-3) in the nightcap at the home stadium of MLS's FC Dallas.

The championship game is scheduled for Sunday.

The Demon Deacons rolled through the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament by a total score of 13-0. The only blemishes on Wake Forest's record are a 3-2 loss to Virginia in double-overtime in the ACC tournament, and a scoreless draw with Duke in the regular season.

Wake Forest coach Jay Vidovich is well aware of the threat presented by North Carolina, or anyone from the ACC for that matter.

On Nov. 1, the Tar Heels held a 1-0 halftime lead before the Demon Deacons broke through with four goals in the second half for a 4-2 victory that clinched the ACC regular-season title for the fourth time in seven years.

"It speaks volumes for our conference," Wake Forest coach Jay Vidovich said of three ACC teams reaching the semis. "A lot of people questioned the state of the conference this season so to have three is a great statement."

Wake Forest is led by strikers Cody Arnoux (17 goals) and Marcus Tracy (13 goals). Midfielder Corben Bone, who starred in high school in nearby Plano, has a team-high 17 assists for the Deacons.

"It's exciting to play in your hometown," Bone said.

The Tar Heels, the No. 13 seed, rebounded from a five-game losing streak to advance through the first three rounds of the NCAAs. Coach Elmar Bolowich said his team is anxious to redeem itself after squandering the first-half lead against Wake Forest.

"We played well for 60 minutes against Wake, but then we made some mistakes and were punished," Bolowich said. "But playing in the ACC, it does prepare you. There are no weak teams in our conference."

North Carolina midfielder Cameron Brown said his team is eager to snap a three-game losing streak against Wake Forest and knock off the top team in the country.

"It's time we gave Wake Forest a run and put them on their heels," said Brown, who grew up in Garland, a Dallas suburb.

No. 2 seed Maryland, paced by midfielder Jeremy Hall (14 goals) and forward Casey Townsend (11 goals), beat Virginia in the ACC tournament final. The Terrapins won the NCAA title in 2005 and this season established a program record for victories, 13 by shutout.

But the Terps know getting past No. 3 seed St. John's won't be easy, although Maryland has won the last three meetings with the Red Storm to take a 4-3 lead in the series.

"They're one of the tough teams in college soccer," Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said. "It's been one of the great rivalries on the East Coast. We've had mixed results against them."

St. John's coach Dr. Dave Masur said his team is not intimidated by the presence of three ACC powers.

"College soccer is a small community," Masur said. "We know challenges come from all over. We don't focus on that at all."