COLLEGE GAMEDAY COMES TO TOWN
Record-setting kicker Nick Sciba holds the Wake Forest, ACCÂ and NCAA records with 34 consecutive field goals made, but despite all the success on the field, his biggest inspiration in life comes from his younger brother, Braden
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CONTENTS Gold Rush is published eight times a year in August, October, November, December, February, March, May and June by Learfield IMG College in conjunction with Wake Forest Athletics. Periodicals postage paid at Winston-Salem, NC 27102 and at additional mailing offices. The price of an annual subscription is $20. Members of the Deacon Club receive a oneyear subscription as part of their membership. Persons wishing to subscribe to Gold Rush should send a check or money order (credit cards not accepted) to: Learfield IMG College 540 N. Trade St. Winston-Salem, NC 27101 All material produced in this publication is the property of Wake Forest University and Learfield IMG College and shall not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. POSTMASTER: Please send all address changes to the attention of Stephanie Hudson, Wake Forest Athletics, 519 Deacon Blvd. Winston-Salem, NC 27105. The appearance of advertising in this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser and/or the advertiser’s product or service by Wake Forest or Learfield IMG College. The use of the name of the University or any of its identifying marks in advertisements must be approved by WFU and IMG.
ON THE COVER Kicker Nick Sciba set an NCAA record last year when he stretched his streak of successful field goal attempts to 34.
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WOMEN’S GOLF COACH NAMED TEAM USA COACH: Wake Forest women’s golf head coach Kim Lewellen has been named the coach for Team USA at the 2021 Arnold Palmer Cup. Lewellen is entering her third year as the head coach for the Demon Deacons and will have two players competing for Team USA at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Cup this December at Bay Hill. She was also named the 2020 National Coach of the Year by the Women’ Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) earlier this year. See story, page 20.
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// 6 ON TARGET Nick Sciba holds records for his accuracy as a kicker and credits family bonds, particularly with younger brother Braden, for his solid foundation.
// 12 MAKING HIS PITCH Ryan Cusick made the shift after Wake Forest’s abbreviated spring season due to the coronavirus pandemic to pitching for the High Point-Thomasville HiToms this summer where he was the Coastal Plain League Pitcher of the Year.
// 17 BIG TRANSITION Laia Vancells became Coach Jen Averill’s first player to be recruited from Spain, and after living and learning a new way in her early days at Wake Forest, she became the field hockey team’s leading scorer last year.
PA E.R F RG OE MH TE HA EDA D.
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Stepping up and setting an example Demon Deacon Nation,
JOHN CURRIE DIRECTOR O F AT H L E T I C S
As I write this, we are just about a month into the fall semester, and I have to say that I am so proud of the way our student-athletes, coaches and staff have responded to the unique circumstances we are all facing. From embracing new health and safety protocols in order to return to competition and keep our entire community safe, to adapting to a new way of online and hybrid learning, to using their voices and platforms to
inspire, raise awareness and enact change, the Demon Deacons have truly been stepping up and setting an example from which we can all learn. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of many in our department, across our campus, and throughout Winston-Salem, our student-athletes recently returned to competition. It’s great to see them back on the field, and we continue to work
Laia "Zorro" Vancells
towards welcoming our fans back in some capacity as soon as it is safe. In this issue of Gold Rush, you can read about AllAmerican kicker Nick Sciba’s special relationship with his brother Braden and the friendly competition Nick has with quarterback Sam Hartman to be Braden’s favorite player. Be sure to check out the article about Laia Vancells to learn more about the style and finesse that the junior from Catalonia brings to the field hockey team— and why her teammates call her “Zorro.” There is also a great story about baseball player Ryan Cusick who was named the Coastal Plain League Pitcher of the Year this summer after posting a 1.14 ERA, 40 K, 9 BB, and just 3 ER over 23.2 IP (five starts) with the High PointThomasville HiToms. Finally, don’t miss the photo spread showcasing some of the great moments from College GameDay. What an amazing experience it was! The only thing that would’ve made it better was if our students and fans could have been there in person, but I trust that we’ll have plenty more opportunities to welcome the GameDay crew back to Truist Field in the future. Remember you can always reach me at email@example.com if you have any questions or feedback. Go Deacs! John Currie Director of Athletics
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FAMILY BONDS FORGE FOUNDATION FOR RECORD-SETTING NICK SCIBA By Bob Sutton
ick Sciba finds himself in potential pressure situations when he runs onto the field for the Wake Forest football team. Yet, the record-setting kicker isn’t consumed with the clamor that might be going on around him. “I’m never uptight,” Sciba said. “I’m a very calm, chill kind of person. I think a lot of that is my faith. That helps me stay calm.” It’s no wonder that Sciba’s outlook is rooted in the foundation of his background. He has experienced first-hand an array of much more serious predicaments than the outcome of a football game. It’s his bond with younger brother, Braden, that has helped give him a unique vantage point. Braden is a special needs teenager, a well-known personality for those within the Wake Forest football family. “We did everything together growing up,” Nick Sciba said. “He has given me a completely different perspective on life. Some people think they have it tough. He’s probably my biggest
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inspiration. When I think I’m down in the dumps, he’s always upbeat. It makes me realize how lucky I am.” Braden’s presence has been embraced among the Demon Deacons. So much so that quarterback Sam Hartman, who’s a roommate of the kicker, wants to be Braden’s favorite player. Gaining that status isn’t easy. “We have a little competition,” Hartman said for the goodnatured contest. “So I try to bribe him with gifts, like a jersey, something, some gloves, a towel. Trying to win him over. I think I have him right now, but you never know, Sciba might come out and break another record. I might have to do something on the football field to get to really be the No. 1.” Braden’s medical challenges have resulted in dozens of surgeries. Many of those have been tracked by members of the Wake Forest program as they offer encouragement. Braden has made a habit of giving the support on game days. In past years when pregame interactions with fans were permitted, he’d hug coach Dave Clawson and be there to pump up players. “All the guys love to see him,” Nick Sciba said. That’s certainly part of the family-like touch that the standout kicker finds so rewarding in Winston-Salem.
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Kicker Nick Sciba poses for a photo with his younger brother, Braden. (Photo courtesy of Nick Sciba)
It’s a place where the kicker hangs out with the quarterback – and just about anyone else on the team. “That’s just Wake Forest. We’re a family,” Sciba said. “I haven’t seen anywhere else that’s like here. Everybody on this team is my brother. Everybody hangs out with everybody.” Yet, the Hartman-Sciba dynamic is entertaining in itself. In Hartman’s lone 2019 start, the Demon Deacons won against Florida State largely based on five field goals from Sciba. In appreciation, Hartman posted a posed photo of Sciba as his Twitter background image. “He did it as a joke and it kind of stuck,” said Sciba, who reciprocated with a photo of Hartman on his home page. Sciba has celebrity status for other accomplishments. He set an NCAA record last November when he stretched his streak of successful field goal attempts to 34. It was a string that began when he was a freshman in 2018 and didn’t end until the last regular season game in 2019.
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NICK SCIBA HEIGHT: 5-9 WEIGHT: 190 POSITION: Kicker CLASS: Junior MAJOR: Health and exercise science HOMETOWN: Clover, S.C. HIGH SCHOOL: Clover FAVORITE WAKE FOREST MEMORIES: A 49-yarder during the third quarter of the thrilling 2018 Birmingham Bowl victory against Memphis and a 43-yard boot to send last November’s game at Syracuse into overtime
“He keeps coming through,” Clawson said. “He has been on it with everything he has done.” In many ways, things kept falling in place for Sciba – even before he arrived on campus. As a youth, Sciba played soccer (“It helped me with coordination and leg strength”), curtailing that activity prior to his junior season of high school in Clover, S.C. He also gave up playing safety for the Clover football team’s defense. He knew kicking was going to be his thing. At a University of Georgia prospect camp, he was the top kicker. That boosted his confidence.
“I could do this for real,” he remembered thinking. Sciba’s arrival for the 2018 spring semester was made possible only when safety Jessie Bates III decided to enter the NFL Draft. That opened a scholarship for the semester, with Sciba taking that spot. By then, Sciba had put aside his allegiances to Clemson and was fully on board with the Demon Deacons. His main offers came as a preferred walk-on at South Carolina and Virginia Tech, but Wake Forest made a scholarship pitch. On a tour of the university, he committed to play for the Demon Deacons in front of Wait Chapel.
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It’s a good thing he had the extra time with the team as an early enrollee. He said his kicking needed fine tuning, but he sorted out many of the issues by the time the 2018 season began. “I knew I had a job to win when I first got here,” he said. From there, it has been a model of excellence. His favorite kicks have been a 49-yarder during the third quarter of the thrilling 2018 Birmingham Bowl victory against Memphis and a 43-yard boot to send last November’s game at Syracuse into overtime. Sciba won’t get caught up in the attention that the streak created. “Every season, I just think about making kicks. I was trying –SAM HARTMAN to make every kick for my team,” he said. “My mindset is last year was last year. I’m not AllAmerican anymore. This is a new year.” He set a school record with 119 points last season, becoming the only player in program history with multiple 100-point seasons. As a matter of circumstance, Sciba often was called upon for socalled chip-shot attempts. His range is up to 55 yards. “I can hit a decently far ball,” he said shortly prior to the 2020 season. “I just haven’t had the chance in a game.” Being dependable is a trait that Sciba wants to possess. “Every kick is the same kick,” he said. “I have to go out with the same mentality that I’ve got to do my job and make the kick.
I go in with the same mentality that it’s the same kick every time. I can’t get in my own head because that’s just one more person trying to make me miss the kick.” Then there was a disruption of routine leading to the 2020 season. From March until reporting back to Wake Forest in late June, Sciba was based at home with his family in Clover during the coronavirus pandemic. He continued his tutelage under Charlotte-based kicking guru Dan Orner, a former University of North Carolina standout. His goal is to play in the NFL. Regardless of how it turns out, he wants to forge a career connected to sports. But Sciba, who turns 21 in October, still has more kicks to make for the Demon Deacons. More chances to make on-field impressions for Braden. Of course, Hartman and others are trying to do the same. “He’s a hero to me, and he’s an inspiration to everybody in any walk of life,” Hartman said. “The battles that he goes through on a daily basis, it’s incredible that he keeps fighting. It’s always good to see Braden.” Nick Sciba certainly agrees. “How lucky I am to have him as a brother. I’m a big brother,” he said. “My little brother has been through it all. … He loves game day. Always has a smile on his face and he loves Wake football.”
“ [BRADEN]’S A HERO TO ME, AND HE’S AN INSPIRATION TO EVERYBODY IN ANY WALK OF LIFE."
B l u e D o o r G ro u p i s P ro u d to Ma rk e t t he
of Wilkinson ERA
PA B AG S E BHAELALD//ERRYA N
RISING UP AFTER STELLAR SUMMER, PITCHER RYAN CUSICK EAGER TO RETURN TO MOUND FOR HIS JUNIOR YEAR By Marc Pruitt
ot all was lost for junior Ryan Cusick after the Wake Forest baseball season was canceled in the spring with the Deacons just 18 games into their schedule. Cusick, a 6-6, 225-pound hard-throwing, right-handed junior pitcher, admitted that he was brokenhearted upon learning games on March 13 and after were being wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic, cutting a promising season short. He was even more devastated — briefly — when he discovered that play in the Cape Cod Summer League he had played in last summer had also been canceled.
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“We still had 12 weeks of baseball season left, and we had a really talented team,” said Cusick, who grew up in the Boston suburbs and attended Red Sox games at Fenway Park and went to Cape Cod League games. “And only getting to make four starts in the spring, I had the crushing feeling of something I cared a lot about that suddenly got taken away from me, from all of us. And it was strange for everyone, especially not knowing what might happen.” Then came an opportunity he did not see coming, one he wasn’t aware of until Deacon head coach Tom Walter made the suggestion. “He called and asked me if I’d be interested in playing for the High Point-Thomasville HiToms, and I didn’t even know there was a team,” Cusick said with a laugh. “It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for me, especially with the uncertainty and circumstances we were all facing back in March.”
“ I HAD THE CRUSHING FEELING OF SOMETHING I CARED A LOT ABOUT THAT SUDDENLY GOT TAKEN AWAY FROM ME... AND IT WAS STRANGE FOR EVERYONE, ESPECIALLY NOT KNOWING WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN.” –RYAN CUSICK OCTOBER 2020
// R YA N C U S I C K
“ WE WOULD PUSH EACH OTHER TO TRY AND MASTER ALL THE LITTLE THINGS, AND WE WOULD HOLD EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE.” –RYAN CUSICK
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To say Cusick made the most of his opportunity to play for the HiToms, who play in the Coastal Plain League with home games at historic Finch Field – about a 30-minute ride from the Wake Forest campus – and seven teams scattered across the region, would be an understatement. Two teammates, Michael Turconi and Shane Smith, also joined Cusick on the HiToms. Cusick was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year, posting a 1.14 ERA in five starts with 23 2/3 innings pitched with a league-high 40 strikeouts while walking just nine hitters. He allowed 12 hits and held opponents to a .114 batting average, allowing three earned runs during the season. “When the season ended and we were all trying to figure out what to do, I realized I had two options. I could continue asking why or pick myself up and hope something would work out for the summer and have something to be excited about,” Cusick said. “I chose the latter, and I feel like I did myself a really good service by continuing to push on. Shane (Smith) and Michael (Turconi), we were so thankful we had that opportunity, and it was a huge summer for all three of us.” The league had close to two dozen ACC players distributed across the rosters of the teams, and the experience was also something Walter knows will help to establish even more confidence in Cusick heading into his junior season. “One thing I think it did as much as anything was establish Ryan in the eyes of the other kids in the ACC to see how good he can be,” Walter said. “Ryan has always had confidence in himself. But with those games, against that kind of competition, and with a lot of scouts present to see him, I think he’s more of a household name now in this league. And I have great confidence that he will continue to make great strides this season He has the tools and the ability to be one of the best ‘Friday Night guys’ in the country. Those are hard to come by. He’s got to go out and win that role for us, just like everyone on the team has to win their roles. But I expect Ryan will be up for that challenge.” Cusick led the team in wins during his freshman year, going 7-3, including a perfect 4-0 mark against ACC competition. The Deacons went 10-2 in games he started. All things were pointing up when he went 3-3 for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod League that summer, which included 33 strikeouts and a 3.78 ERA. “My freshman year, I really relied on my fastball a lot,” said Cusick, who has been clocked as high as 99 miles per hour. “When it was good, I was pretty good. And when it wasn’t as good, I wasn’t as good. I knew I had to continue to develop as a pitcher, and I knew I needed to find consistency in a secondary pitch. That was my focus going into my sophomore year.” Cusick spent plenty of time in the weight room and in the Wake Forest pitching lab, honing his breaking ball and mastering his delivery with the help of pitching coach John Hendricks. “His fastball has become elite, and the command of his breaking ball is the key to his development since his freshman year,” Walter said. “He’s one of the most dedicated players I’ve ever coached. He has a 24/7 work ethic that puts him in a position to be successful in anything he does, and that includes working out, nutrition and rest. He’s a thoughtful young man with laser focus, and that will continue to serve him well.”
Cusick also developed a close relationship with Jared Shuster, who was the Deacons’ starting pitcher for Saturday games last season and was drafted No. 25 overall by the Atlanta Braves in the Major League Baseball Draft over the summer. “I was so happy to see his face on the TV when he got drafted,” Cusick said. “He and I became workout partners last August and just really dove into things together. We taught each other. We challenged each other. I would show him how to throw his fastball a little harder, he would teach me about his change-up. We would push each other to try and master all the little things, and we would hold each other accountable. I’ve talked to him a few times since he got drafted, and he has shared what his experience has been like as part of the Braves’ 60-man roster.” Cusick hopes he eventually gets to hear his name called in the MLB draft — again. He was drafted in the 40th round (No. 1,189 overall) by the Cincinnati Reds after his senior year in high school but ultimately chose to come to Wake Forest. “It was really hard for an 18-year old kid to turn down lots of money and the chance to start living a dream I’ve had since I was a kid, but I know I made the right decision,” said Cusick, whose first love was basketball. He didn’t settle on playing baseball in college until his freshman year in high school.
“Sitting back and reflecting two years later, it was the best decision of my life to come to Wake Forest. It’s a really special place. It sells itself with its academic programs, the campus – and the coaching staff and the care they put into their players. I’ve had an incredible experience, and everyone here has been tremendous. I’m very thankful and looking forward to a third year with all those people who have made things so special for me here.”
RYAN CUSICK HEIGHT: 6-6 WEIGHT: 225 POSITION: Pitcher CLASS: Junior MAJOR: Economics HOMETOWN: Sudbury, Mass. HIGH SCHOOL: Avon Old Farms School FAVORITE WAKE FOREST MEMORY: Playing NC State at home my freshman year, and we split the first two games. I got the start in the third game, and we picked up the win against a great conference opponent. It was an electric atmosphere that weekend, and it doesn’t get any better than beating an in-state rival.
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THE STICK JUNIOR LAIA VANCELLS EARNED THE NICKNAME ‘ZORRO’ WITH HER UNIQUE SKILL SET AND PROVIDES A DIFFERENT VIBE WHILE MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM GROWING UP IN SPAIN TO LIVING AND LEARNING AT WAKE FOREST By Sam Walker
hey call her “Zorro.” Laia (pronounced Lie-ah) Vancells of the Wake Forest field hockey team is so deft with her stick that before you know it, the ball in possession of the opponent is quickly taken away. It’s almost like magic.
Vancells has developed her own style when styles clashed when she joined the Wake Forest field hockey team two seasons ago as a freshman from Catalonia, a region in the northeast of Spain. Last season as a sophomore, she played in all 20 games – making 19 starts. She led the way with six goals and had four assists to rank first on the team with 16 points.
She scored goals against Iowa, Liberty, Stanford, Michigan State, Appalachian State and Virginia while placing 14 of 23 shots on goal. Most notably, she scored game-winners against Liberty and Michigan State. She also made an immediate impact as a freshman, playing in all 23 games and starting 14 games. She scored three goals and placed 10 of 23 shots on goal all the while trying to get used to living and learning at Wake Forest. “At first, it was very difficult because our cultures are different,” Vancells said. ”There were a lot of things I was doing I didn’t understand. Where I’m from, we only talk when we have to. We don’t want to be the center of attention. The food was a big change. I like fresh food, and I didn’t like American food, so my freshman year I just ate cookies. My favorite is chocolate chip. It was not that bad (to live off cookies).” OCTOBER 2020
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The transition wasn’t easy, but now Vancells, a junior, is known Like everyone, COVID-19 made an impact on Vancells’ life. as one of the skilled and independent players on the team. Head She was one of the last remaining students left on campus after coach Jen Averill marvels at the way that Vancells never says she COVID-19 spread through Europe and to the United States can’t do something new but always responds when asked to try during the first half of 2020. Vancells was healthy, but the rest something new with, ”I’ll try.” of her family in Catalonia all had contracted the virus – making “A reporter once suggested, while watching international it unsafe for her to go home. So she stayed at Wake Forest in a film that if you compare the style of American field hockey dorm on a mostly empty campus and waited until she received players to that of Spanish and Argentinian players it would be word that it was safe to return. like comparing a symphony (when watching the Spanish and “My whole family had COVID, so I didn’t have a safe place Argentinians) to a rock band (when watching the Americans),” to stay,” Vancells said. “My mom had it, my seven uncles had Averill said. “We’re just like hard heavy it, five of my aunts had it. I would metal, and we’re going to win games have gone home earlier, but I ended with physicality, but not with finesse up finally going home late in June. and style. When the country started opening “So the story behind Zorro came up was when my family said I could about when we were teaching Laia come back. some defensive tactics. Laia is the most “While I was here, I would just pleasant, well-mannered, gentle person go for walks, or go out on my bike. you might ever meet, and she looked at I played the guitar or ukulele, and us like, ‘I would never do that defensively.’ I read a lot. People around campus So, she created her own style of would check in on me a couple of defending, and it was like she literally had times a week. It was lonely at times, a sword in her hand and would just rob but you just had to get used to it.” –JEN AVERILL you of the ball, and you had no idea what Vancells said while she was, by just happened. It was stealth-like. normal standards, alone at Wake “A lot of times kids will get cards because they come in from Forest that she received support and check-ins from Averill, behind and their stick is swinging and flailing, and hers is never Ashley Wechter, the Assistant Athletic Director for Studentdoing that. So since her stick skills are so good, and it was literally Athlete Development, and several Spanish speaking professors like she was in and out with the ball like she was using a sword. from across the university community. All the support was Then we’re back in transition, so we started calling her Zorro.” greatly appreciated. Averill said that it’s easy to appreciate Vancells’ finesse and For every player on the Wake Forest team there flies a flag in style because she is so smooth on the ball. Kentner Stadium representing their nationality. And although “It’s at that point you really start to appreciate culturally the Vancells is from Spain, she is most proud to be from Catalonia. finesse and style because she is so smooth on the ball,” Averill The flag that represents her is not the Spanish flag, but the said. “She does uncharacteristic things, which makes it difficult Catalan flag. Catalonia has its own unique culture, traditions for teams to defend because they’ve never seen it before. That’s and language. In fact, Catalan is spoken by more than 9 the blended hockey you’re starting to see on the collegiate level. million people. I love the diversity we get here on campus with our studentFor Averill, Vancells represents the first player she recruited to athletes because they come with a different skill-set, and I’m Wake Forest from Spain. “During her recruitment, you could tell talking about their independence, the way they socially interact, from the video and how she communicated to us that she wasn’t and then we put them on the hockey field and let them grow.” going to be really outspoken,” Averill said. “But what I found
“I LOVE THE DIVERSITY WE GET HERE ON CAMPUS WITH OUR STUDENT-ATHLETES BECAUSE THEY COME WITH A DIFFERENT SKILL-SET.
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LAIA VANCELLS HEIGHT: 5-9 POSITION: Midfielder/Forward CLASS: Junior MAJOR: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; French HOMETOWN: Terrassa, Spain HIGH SCHOOL: Escola Pia de Terrassa FAVORITE WAKE FOREST MEMORY: Defeating seventhranked Iowa to advance to the 2018 NCAA Final Four.
out after never recruiting a kid from Spain is they’re relaxed. For the first year, I wondered why she was always last out of the locker room. And it wasn’t that she was last, she just wasn’t in a hurry. I think if you look at COVID times, we were forced to slow down and ask why are we all racing? With Laia, she really appreciates time. “The thing I’ve reflected on is how do we not force our standards on all these kids, and how do we seek to understand the differences. What could be blended to make us all better? That’s the element Laia has brought to our team.”
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DEACON COACH EXCITED TO LEAD TEAM USA
n Sept. 10, the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) announced that Wake Forest women's golf head coach Kim Lewellen will lead the United States team at the 2021 Arnold Palmer Cup which will be held June 11-13 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
"I am thrilled to be coaching Team USA," Lewellen said. "The Arnold Palmer Cup is an amazing event that is very special to the golf world and Wake Forest family. At Wake, we strive to emulate Arnold Palmer both on and off the course, so being able to continue to bring his spirit to the game and continue his legacy is a huge honor for me." Lewellen is entering her third year as the head coach for the Demon Deacons and will have two players competing for Team USA at this year’s Arnold Palmer Cup, which was postponed until December due to COVID-19. She was also named the 2020 National Coach of the Year by the Women' Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) earlier this year. In her first two years at the helm of the Deacs, Lewellen and her team won seven team titles, including the 2019 ACC Conference Championship and a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships that same year. "This is an outstanding accomplishment for Coach Lewellen and our golf program," Director of Athletics John Currie said. "Arnold Palmer's legend on our campus is as large as the statue of him in front of the Haddock House and we are thrilled that Wake Forest will be well-represented next summer at the tournament named in his honor."
"IN HER FIRST TWO YEARS AT THE HELM OF THE DEACS, LEWELLEN AND HER TEAM WON SEVEN TEAM TITLES, INCLUDING THE 2019 ACC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP AND A SECONDPLACE FINISH AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS THAT SAME YEAR." 20
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One Small Step
S TA N COTTEN VOICE OF THE DEMON DEACONS
I will never forget my first trip to Florida. It was the summer of 1969, and the United States was about to attempt to land a man on the moon and bring him home safely again. Just like President Kennedy had promised. No small task. I was 8 years old at the time, and I’d say I was an average 8-year-old American boy of that day. I loved baseball. And I loved NASA. And I was sure I was going to love the ocean. We were on vacation, and I was anxious. I had never been to the beach before. And I certainly had never seen a space rocket. Within days I had been with my dad while he drove on Daytona Beach (do they still allow that today?) and seen Apollo 11 on the launch pad. Not long after, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I remember watching the grainy, black and white television pictures that were beaming back from the lunar surface. So far away, yet so close. Right there in my living room.
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Of course, what Armstrong said as he stepped off the lunar module steps and onto the moon’s surface are some of the most famous words ever uttered. “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” It was just a small step for him, but for all of us it meant so much more. Recently, Wake Forest began another football season. The Deacons have been doing this now for over 100 seasons. But even though the opener on Sept. 12 against Clemson was ‘just another game’ it meant so much more. In more ways than one. The biggest reason why the game was so big is easy. Last year, COVID could have been the name of a new NASA space vehicle. I would have believed it. I had never heard the word before. Well, we’ve all heard it now and know exactly what it is. And it nearly stopped college football in its tracks.
Less than a week before the season’s kickoff on his weekly radio show, head football coach Dave Clawson admitted it was very deep into the summer and into fall camp before he felt confident that the Deacons’ opening game with Clemson would really go down. I will admit, too, that I had extreme doubts that we would ever actually play a football game in 2020. And yet the game was played. The season started. And off we went like a rocket into a clear blue Florida sky. It was a small step, just one game. But the moment was much larger. I wonder what Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were thinking once Armstrong and Aldrin touched down and established Tranquility Base while Collins orbited the moon in the Command Module Columbia? I know what I would have been thinking: “This is pretty cool, but we still have to get home.”
"AND YET THE GAME WAS PLAYED. THE SEASON STARTED. AND OFF WE WENT LIKE A ROCKET INTO A CLEAR BLUE FLORIDA SKY. IT WAS A SMALL STEP, JUST ONE GAME. BUT THE MOMENT WAS MUCH LARGER." I think that’s where Wake Forest and college football are as I write this one week into the season. Now please do not misunderstand me. Successfully pulling off the game against Clemson was huge. Not enough thanks can be given to Dr. Nathan Hatch and John Currie for their leadership and planning to make it happen. Fantastic work on the part of so many made it a wonderful night at Truist Field. And on top of it all, of course, was the fact that ESPN’s signature program, College GameDay, was originated from Winston-Salem for the first time.
That was big. It thrust Wake Forest and Winston-Salem into the national spotlight, and the staff from operations and ticketing to marketing/multimedia/ media relations and all around did superb work. And while I’m at it, a tip of the cap to my colleagues at Learfield IMG College for their work putting together the radio broadcast, jumping through all kinds of hoops and Zooms to get it done. Great job by all. But the work isn’t finished. It will take continued effort and discipline to make sure that we can come home.
Coach Clawson and his team have helped, in so many ways, set the example. We all know how hard they have worked to get to the start of the season. Now we all must keep it going. I still get goosebumps today when looking at old film of those Apollo command modules splashing down in the Pacific Ocean after falling from space and their completed missions. The splashdowns were technically touchdowns. How fitting. Back home. Safe and sound. Sounds good to me. See you on the radio. GO DEACS!
Downtown Winston-Salem 125 S. Main Street 336.714.2800 WE CAN WRAP ANYTHING,
EVEN A HEADSET.
PHOTO: JAYLYNN NASH / WAKE FOREST ATHLETICS
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INSIDE THE DEACON CLUB
A new reality for fan engagement
BA R RY FA I R C L O T H SENIOR A S S O C I AT E AT H L E T I C DIRECTOR, DEVELOPMENT
Fall sports are underway, and it’s overwhelming to think of how much work went into making that happen. I think I speak for all of Deacon Nation when I say a huge “thank you” to the countless coaches, student-athletes, staff and administrators who believed it could be done and worked so hard to get us there. As you know, one of the goals that drives our department is to provide the Best Fan Experience in North Carolina. But if our fans can’t come to our games, that becomes more of a challenge. However, it’s a challenge that Associate AD for Fan Engagement Rhett Hobart and his team wasn’t afraid to tackle. This new reality has really focused their efforts on how to create the best “at-home” fan experience for Deacon Nation. The Fan Engagement team’s creativity and dedicated efforts have been on display since we opened the home season on Sept. 12, hosting ESPN College Gameday live from Truist Field for the first time. Rhett and his team spent a lot of time thinking about the television viewing experience and how to make the newly branded Truist Field look its best on TV. And I think they nailed it. To add some visual appeal to all those empty seats, they covered the first 40 rows of each section with creative branding promoting our wonderful University and also providing opportunities to maximize impact for our corporate sponsors. As you look around the stadium now, it’s easy to believe that, no matter the camera angle, Truist Field and Wake Forest University will look great on TV.
Another important aspect of the “at-home” experience is what fans (and the players on the field) hear. As a result, artificial crowd noise was pumped through the stadium sound system to help make it feel (and sound) more like the typical gameday we long for. Interestingly, Coach Clawson and the opposing coach typically discuss the crowd noise prior to the game and come to an agreement on the appropriate decibel level on the field. We have also activated a special experience via the Fan Hub app for Deacon Virtual Ticket subscribers. They have access to interesting, exclusive content like videos of player warm ups, a message from Dave Clawson and performances by the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black to create the feeling of being part of the game. While the seats sit empty — with the exception of some amazing Demon Deaclone cutouts — the typical game production continues as usual with pumping music and crowd prompts on the videoboard ready to fire up the crowds. While I am beyond proud of everything that everyone is doing to make this season an enjoyable and memorable one, what I am reminded of each time the Deacs take the field in a nearly empty stadium is that games are really all about the fans — fans make the game. Being able to cheer in unison to create a home field advantage fosters a feeling of being a part of the team. We long for social interaction at games and long to see friends and fellow fans, many of whom we got used to seeing at every game, year after year. We are eager to show our school spirit with black and gold attire and face paint. And if you stand still outside Bridger Field House, you can almost catch a faint whiff of the smoky essence of the barbecue grills that will hopefully reclaim their rightful places in our tailgating lots soon. Rest assured, when we get the green light from health officials, Truist Field is ready to welcome Deacon Nation back. We have safety protocols in place, and we are ready to deliver on our goal of providing the Best Fan Experience in North Carolina. I’m looking forward to hosting you and cheering on the Deacs with you soon.
Go Deacs! Barry
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EN C HI A ELAUD EAT RE D E A C O N C L U B PA // F IG NA PD
Deacon Nation steps up with gifts As is the case with many individuals, families and companies across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant budgetary challenge for Wake Forest Athletics, but the Deacon faithful have been stepping up to help #SustainTheDeacs through this difficult period. Understandably, there has been a significant decrease in premium seating gifts compared to the same time period last year, but with gifts to Excellence Funds, capital projects and endowments increasing, total gifts to date are up 40%. FY20
Premium Seating Gifts
Deacon Club Annual Fund
As a result of the aforementioned challenges, individual sport and program budgets are experiencing cuts across the board, but increased investments in Excellence Funds, which provide donors with an opportunity to direct their gifts to a specific sport or program, is helping to supplement some of those reduced budgets. FY20 Gifts YTD Baseball
FY21 Gifts YTD* FY21 Pledges Due
Field Hockey Football
Women's Tennis Men's Track/Cross Country Women's Track/Cross Country Volleyball Nutrition
S-A Career Development
S-A Sports Performance &Â Healthcare
$118,115.00 *As of 8/31/20
Wake Forest Athletics is grateful for the ongoing support of Deacon Nation as it strives to provide a World Class Student-Athlete Experience during such an unprecedented time. If you are interested in making a gift to the Deacon Club Annual Fund, one or more Excellence Funds, a capital project, or would like to learn more about endowing a scholarship or talk to someone about setting up an estate gift, please contact the Deacon Club at (336) 758-5626. OCTOBER 2020
N I C K A N D A D R A LY N B L U E
Nick and Adralyn Blue make winning team and enjoy investing in their alma mater
ick and Adralyn Blue (‘04) have accomplished a lot since their days of playing baseball and running track for the Demon Deacons. Successful entrepreneurs, Nick and Adralyn own and operate Blue Sky Homes, a ‘Smart and Green’ real estate development company located in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, Arizona. In 2009, Nick acquired his first investment property — during a period when very few people would have considered real estate a good investment. The former financial advisor took a risk that paid off, but he didn’t do it alone. As a member of Wake Forest’s 2001 ACC Baseball Championship team, Nick understood that amazing things
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can happen when there’s a strong team working together, so he recruited the best designer and business partner to head Field Operations — his wife, and fellow Deacon, Adralyn. Since then, Blue Sky has bought and sold more than 300 properties, renovating and improving existing homes and designing and building others from the ground up. Wake Forest’s Pro Humanitate spirit is alive and well in the Blues. They believe the strength of a society lies within sharing, and therefore, they donate 5 percent of Blue Sky’s profits to help those in need in their community. And it was this same belief, along with a sense of deep gratitude for Wake Forest that inspired them more than a year ago when they heard about the Deacon Club’s annual Giving Day.
“Our time at Wake was a magical period in our lives,” Nick explained. “It set us up for success. For us just it made a lot of sense to give back.” “I can second that,” Adralyn said. “We really had amazing experiences at Wake. I would wish that for anyone — any student athlete, especially — to have that combination of such high-level Division I sports and such a quality education. It really does help set you apart once you’re out there, getting a job and making a life for yourself. “If giving is a part of your family's goals, like it is for ours, you’re always trying to decide where your gifts should go. When Nick talked to me about it last year, we decided that it just made sense to give back to a program and a school that gave us so much over the years. And
PA G E H E A D E R
it's fun for us to look back on that time because even though we're together now, we had separate, but parallel, really positive experiences for five years at Wake Forest.” Thanks to the close-knit community among student-athletes, Nick and Adralyn knew each other during their five years at Wake — both were redshirted due to injuries — but they didn’t start dating until after college. Following graduation, Adralyn joined Teach for America which brought her to Phoenix where she later began working in politics, coordinating events as a District Aide for U.S. Congressman, Harry Mitchell, and ran political campaigns on the local and national level. Meanwhile, Nick came to Arizona to attend spring training with the San Diego Padres until a shoulder injury changed his trajectory. The two reconnected and began spending more time together. Ultimately, they went on to build a life together that now includes 7-year-old daughter, Gabriella. Looking back on their time as Wake Forest student-athletes, Nick and Adralyn recognize how special it was. “I think one of the other things that we learned after leaving Wake and talking to student-athletes from other schools is that our experience was really unique — the way that all the athletes got to know each other, became friends, some of them even got married and built lives together,” Nick said. “But the fact that our school and our community, particularly the athletic community was so close and tight knit was really special. I sort of assumed while we were at Wake,
that it was like that everywhere, and then you talk to other friends and you realize it wasn't that way. They didn't know many people on other teams or sometimes, they weren’t even that close with their own teammates. But for us, it was different. I think just the environment and culture that Wake creates allows for that and encourages that closeness.” “I think someone who needs a huge shoutout here would be Julie Griffin,” Adalyn went on. “She was like the glue for us. I keep thinking about what makes Wake different, and a big part of it was all those programs and events that brought us together. We had team building activities, kickoff events at the beginning of the year, celebrations and recognition of academic achievements; we had volunteer opportunities and so many ways to get involved in the community, and Julie was instrumental in that. All in all, we really couldn't say enough good things about Wake.”
Being Wake Forest student-athletes clearly had a significant impact on the Blues, and they wanted to participate in Giving Day to make sure that other student-athletes could have similar experiences hopefully set themselves up for success as well. Since then, they have taken advantage of the Deacon Club’s sport-specific giving opportunities, supporting both the track & field and baseball programs, and they are excited about the future of the Demon Deacons. Interestingly, their contributions to the Wake Forest community, don’t stop there. Nick and Adralyn are also equity investors in Campus Gas and Bull City Ciderworks, both ventures of Nick’s teammate Ben Ingold. “Let’s be honest,” they laughed, “we all wish there had been cool spots like Campus Gas so close to campus when we were there. It’s just another small way of investing in Wake Forest, and the community as a whole, that gave us so much during those formative years.”
Keep up with the Deacon Club on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! For the latest news and information from the Deacon Club and to connect with other members, be sure to find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! @WFUDeaconClub Facebook.com/DeaconClub
@WFUDeaconClub | @DeacOnTheRun @BarryFaircloth OCTOBER 2020
C O L L E G E G A M E D AY
ESPN'S COLLEGE GAMEDAY
COMES TO TOWN WAKE FOREST AND WINSTON-SALEM TAKE COUNTRY’S CENTER STAGE FOR DEACONS’ COLLEGE FOOTBALL OPENER AGAINST CLEMSON
Downtown Winston-Salem was lit in gold to celebrate Wake Forest hosting ESPN College GameDay and #1 Clemson. (Left) While fans could not be in attendance, Demon Deaclones filled the first few rows at Truist Field to remind the team that Deacon Nation was behind them! (Right) ESPN College GameDay crew broadcasted live from Truist Field while Lee Corso joined from home where he was surrounded by some passionate Demon Deaclone fans.
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Logos and banners for the ESPN College GameDay broadcast decorated the Wake Forest campus and Innovation Quarter
The Wake Forest Fan Engagement staff poses with the “crowd” of Demon Deaclones.
The ESPN College GameDay tour bus made its way around town led by the Demon Deacon. Fireworks lit up the sky over the Wake Forest campus at the conclusion of a special virtual pep rally on Friday night.
Since they couldn’t attend the game in person, Deacon fans gathered at The Drive across from Truist Field for special drive-in watch parties for both the ESPN College GameDay broadcast and the game. OCTOBER 2020
DEACONS IN THE PROS BASEBALL COACHES/SCOUTS Ross Atkins Neil Avent TJ Barra Dave Bush Michael Holmes Bill Masse Matt Price Mike Rikard Eric Schmitt
MLB MLB MLB MLB MLB MLB MLB MLB MLB
Toronto Blue Jays Oakland A’s Major League Baseball Boston Red Sox San Francisco Giants Miami Marlins Kansas City Royals Boston Red Sox New York Yankees
General Manager Area Scout Sr. Baseball Data Quality Analyst Pitching Coach Amateur Scouting Director Special Assignment Scout Area Scouting Supervisor Vice President of Amateur Scouting Director of Player Development
Minor League Ranks Johnny Aiello Carter Bach Ben Breazeale Will Craig Parker Dunshee Stuart Fairchild Aaron Fossas Patrick Frick Connor Johnstone Garrett Kelly Morgan McSweeney Nate Mondou Colin Peluse D.J. Poteet Griffin Roberts Jared Shuster Donnie Sellers Gavin Sheets Bruce Steel Mac Williamson
Toronto Blue Jays (A) Tampa Bay Rays (Rookie) Free Agent Pittsburgh Pirates Oakland Athletics (AAA) Cincinnati Reds (AA) Cincinnati Reds (AA) Seattle Mariners (Short Season A) Atlanta Braves (AA) Chicago Cubs (High A) Baltimore Orioles (A) Oakland Athletics (AA) Oakland Athletics (Short Season A) Detroit Tigers St. Louis Cardinals (High A) Atlanta Braves Toronto Blue Jays (High A) Chicago White Sox (AA) Kansas City Royals (A) Free Agent
WOMEN’S GOLF Jennifer Kupcho Natalie Sheary Sierra Sims Cheyenne Woods
MEN’S SOCCER Luis Argudo Jon Bakero Corben Bone Joey DeZart Brad Dunwell Chris Duvall Omir Fernandez Sam Fink Akira Fitzgerald Michael Gamble Logan Gdula Ian Harkes Jack Harrison Jacori Hayes Alistair Johnston Bruno Lapa Collin Martin Mark McKenzie Ike Opara Sean Okoli Hayden Partain Kevin Politz Sam Raben Jalen Robinson Brandon Servania Ema Twumasi
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COACHES/MLS FRONT OFFICE James Riley Kurt Schmid Zack Schilawski Stephen Keel Ryan Martin John Hackworth Mike McGinty Kelvin Jones
MLS Director of Player Relations Inter Miami (Head Scout) North Carolina FC U23s (Assistant Coach) MLS Social Media Manager London Head Coach Louisville FC Head Coach NCFC Assistant Coach Columbus Crew Academy Director
WOMEN’S SOCCER Aubrey Bledsoe Bayley Feist Ally Haran Katie Stengel Sarah Teegarden Maddie Huster
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Al-Farouq Aminu John Collins James Johnson Chris Paul Ishmael Smith Jeff Teague Jaylen Hoard Doral Moore Austin Arians Bryant Crawford
NBA NBA NBA NBA NBA NBA NBA/G-League NBA G-League Germany Lithuania
Orlando Magic Atlanta Hawks Minnesota Timberwolves Oklahoma City Thunder Washington Wizards Atlanta Hawks Portland Delaware Blue Coats Schalke Juventus
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C.J. Harris Darius Leonard Jamaal Levy Nikita Mescheriakov Codi Miller-McIntyre Dinos Mitoglou Troy Rike Devin Thomas Terrence Thompson Ty Walker Andre Washington David Weaver Mitchell Wilbekin Coron Williams L.D. Williams Keyshawn Woods
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Guangzhou LL Sportivo America Bahia Basket Spartak SP Cedevita Olimpija Panathinaikos AMA Penarol Kutaisi Windsor Al-Hala Kumamoto Konyaspor Dorados Sporting Rotterdam
WOMEN’S BASKETBALL Dearica Hamby Chelsea Douglas Amber Campbell Elisa Penna Alex Sharp
WNBA Romania Ireland Italy WNBL
Las Vegas Aces and Italy Phoenix Constanta Ambassador UCC Glanmire Cork Venezia Perth Lynx
FOOTBALL Alex Bachman Essang Bassey Jessie Bates III Jake Benzinger Greg Dortch Duke Ejiofor Nate Gilliam Phil Haynes Amari Henderson Justin Herron Kendall Hinton Kevin Johnson Marquel Lee Joe Looney Justin Strnad Scotty Washington Kyle Wilber John Wolford
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WR DB S OL WR/KR DE OL OL DB OL WR CB LB OL LB WR LB QB
NY Giants Denver Cincinnati Free Agent Free Agent Houston LA Chargers Seattle Jacksonville New England Free Agent Cleveland Free Agent Dallas Denver Cincinnati Oakland LA Rams
COACHES/STAFF Chad Alexander Joe Kenn John Spanos James MacPherson Brad Idzik Teryl Austin Chip Vaughn Calvin Pace Jr.
NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL NFL
NY Jets Carolina Chargers Chargers Seahawks Steelers NY Jets NY Jets
Dir Player Personnel Strength Coach Executive VP of Football Operations Scout Assistant WR coach Secondary coach Defensive assistant Scouting intern
MEN’S GOLF Bill Haas Webb Simpson Billy Andrade Jay Haas Gary Hallberg Len Mattiace Kyle Reifers Will Zalatoris Lee Detmer
PGA PGA Champions Champions Champions Champions Korn Ferry Tour Korn Ferry Tour G PRO
FIELD HOCKEY Lauren Crandall Michelle Kasold Melissa Gonzalez (Coach)
USA National Team (Retired Fall 2016) USA National Team (Retired Spring 2017) USA National Team (Captain, Retired Summer 2018)
MEN’S TENNIS Noah Rubin Petros Chrysochos Skander Mansouri Borna Gojo
ATP ITF Futures ITF Futures ITF Futures
WOMEN’S TENNIS Emma Davis
NASCAR PIT CREWS Kevin Harris (football) Spencer Bishop (football) Dion Williams
No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing (Daniel Suarez) No. 15 Premium Motorsports (Ross Chastain) Motor Racing Network analyst
C O M P L I A N C E C O R NPA E RG//ET OHDE DA HA DI R ESR TON
OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR FALL SPORT STUDENT-ATHLETES
TODD HAIRSTON SENIOR A S S O C I AT E AT H L E T I C DIRECTOR, COMPLIANCE
In light of the uncertainty around the upcoming competitive season, the NCAA has extended a blanket season of competition waiver to student-athletes in fall sports (field hockey, football, men's water polo, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer and women's volleyball). This waiver will allow students in these sports the opportunity to participate with their teams throughout the 2020 season not be charged a season of competition. Under normal NCAA rules, even participation in one contest would utilize one of a student's four seasons of competition, however with this exception, even if a student competes in each of the institution's games, they will be granted a redshirt year.
Additionally, student-athletes who choose not to participate due to COVID-19 concerns will have the opportunity to "opt out" of competition. In doing so, their athletic scholarship will be honored at the same level as if the student was fully participating. These measures were implemented in an effort to optimize health and safety and also to protect competitive opportunities for all student-athletes in the event that sport seasons are cut short once again due to public health concerns. While competitions and statistics generated during this season will be official, many student-athletes will enjoy an unprecedented competitive "redshirt" season this fall.
PROUD TO BE A DEMON DEACON! Women’s Golf ACC & East Regional Championship Teams 1994 & 1995
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