Team takes on Eagles
Gelnovatch urges young guns to fill void left by injured Bates
After losing its top goal-scorer to a season-ending knee injury last week, the No. 25 Virginia men's soccer team will look to keep the ball rolling Saturday against No. 13 Boston College at Klöckner Stadium at 7 p.m. in a game streamed live on ESPN3's website.
With the ACC Tournament less than two weeks away, the Cavaliers will have to finish the season without standout junior forward Will Bates after an MRI revealed that the preseason All-American striker would be sidelined four to six months with a torn ACL. Bates started all 15 games in which he appeared and amassed a team-leading 14 goals and four assists.
"It's one of those things that happens in sports," Bates said. "It's just a risk you take. From here you just go forward, get the surgery and try to get back on the field."
Sitting at fourth place in the ACC standings, the Cavaliers (10-5-1, 3-2-1 ACC) are anything but downtrodden, having lost just one of their last seven games coming down the stretch.
"We got our destiny in our own hands," coach George Gelnovatch said. "We've got two ACC home games [left] and I think a win [tomorrow] will clinch a top-four spot, and I think it will secure our NCAA [Tournament] selection as well."
It certainly hasn't been easy for the Cavaliers, however, as Bates's injury is only the most recent of many devastating blows to the Virginia roster. His knee injury is the third of its kind to strike the team this year alone, with freshman midfielder Eric Bird and sophomore midfielder Bryan Lima both succumbing to ACL tears of their own earlier in the season.
"It's tough, but we're staying positive and we're going to move forward." Gelnovatch said. "Were not gonna let any of this stuff get to us."
While Gelnovatch conceded that Virginia cannot fill the vacuum left by those season-ending injuries, especially that of Bates - whose 32 points rank second in the ACC - the Virginia coach stressed that the talented young guns on his roster must prove themselves capable of collectively making up the difference in scoring output.
"How do you replace a guy like Bates?" Gelnovatch asked. "It's really by committee, because I don't think we're going to just plug one guy in there to start scoring 10 to 15 goals."\nWith their top finisher now among several other players sidelined for the remainder of the 2011 season, the Cavaliers will now depend on younger players with a penchant for playmaking beyond their years. Freshman midfielder Calvin Rezende and freshman forward Chris Somerville are two potential impact youngsters who are now stepping up into bigger roles because of the recent string of injuries. Both are helping to carry the team into the playoffs as major contributors to the Virginia offense, with Rezende scoring his first goal and Somerville providing an assist during the 2-0 victory against American Tuesday.
"When you're coming off the bench, then you're in there to make a difference," Rezende said. "[The injuries] just make the young guys more determined than ever, more disciplined, and it's a way to show our talent because we have big shoes to fill."
With momentum at their backs and the injuries in the past, the Cavaliers look to continue a strong season finish against the Eagles before hosting N.C. State in Charlottesville Thursday for the final regular season game. Virginia sits just one point above Boston College in the ACC standings. A win Saturday would be crucial to locking up a favorable spot in the conference tournament and could even catapult the Cavaliers a few spots up the table - an impressive feat considering the injury and suspension-induced misfortune the squad has suffered this year.
"The season's like a roller coaster and we just keep getting more obstacles in our way." Somerville said. "But it's not gonna stop us. We're gonna keep working harder and push on through it. We gotta keep our heads up, stay positive and keep rolling"