Cavs host Pack in regular season finale
Senior members of squad could appear at Klöckner for final time as pportunity to host conference tournament matchup hangs in balance
After a disappointing loss against then-No. 13 Boston College last weekend, the Virginia men's soccer team looks to bounce back with a win against visiting N.C. State tonight in the team's final regular season match. The Cavaliers (10-6-1, 3-3-1 ACC) are additionally invested in collecting a victory against the Wolfpack (6-9-2, 2-5-0 ACC) as tonight's game will begin with a ceremony honoring the senior class, which will potentially make its final appearance at Klöckner Stadium.
To send off its seniors with a fitting end to their final regular season with the orange and blue, Virginia must regain a high level of offensive intensity that seemed lacking during its match against the Eagles. Boston College stifled the Cavaliers' attack for the entire first half and only allowed Virginia to break through on a successful penalty kick off the foot of sophomore forward Brian Span during the 70th minute of play. The loss moved Virginia back to sixth place in the ACC standings, pushing the Cavaliers out of a position to host a matchup during the first round of the upcoming ACC Tournament.
"We're obviously disappointed for the result," senior defender Hunter Jumper said. "But looking at it from an optimistic point of view, we played extremely well, especially in the second half. If we can play that well offensively, like in the second half, we can play with anybody."
Virginia will need some help from several other teams if it hopes to jump to a top-four seed in the tournament. Losses by both Boston College and Wake Forest, coupled with a Cavalier win, would place Virginia at the No. 4 spot in the conference.
N.C. State, meanwhile, will look to use tonight's matchup to springboard out of a play-in conference game to the tournament. If they remain in eighth place in the ACC, the Wolfpack would square off against Virginia Tech next Monday with a chance to face the conference's top-seed during the opening round.
Despite the Wolfpack's added motivation, the Cavaliers, who typically play midweek matchups Tuesday evenings, believe they will benefit from the two extra days of practice.
"Having a quick Tuesday turnaround game is really tough on the body, really tough on the mind," Jumper said. "Having to go straight from Monday just having all these classes - most of us have late classes anyway - and hardly getting any sleep, and coming back on Tuesday is extremely tough."
Coach George Gelnovatch used the added preparation time to remind his team not to look too far ahead to postseason play. He instead asked his players to focus on N.C. State as a stepping stone toward its ultimate goal of finding success after the final regular-season game.
"I think by focusing on one game at a time will take care of the NCAA Tournament," Gelnovatch said. "We need to win this game for a top-four seed [in the ACC tournament]. It'll help our NCAA berth and would put us in position to play another good game."
Defender Greg Monaco, midfielder Felipe Libreros, forward Brian Ownby, defender Mike Volk and Jumper will all be recognized tonight for their contributions, especially for their efforts during the team's 2009 National Championship run.
"They've meant a lot," Gelnovatch said. "Those seniors are largely responsible for a national championship. That's something they'll have for the rest of their lives."
Despite the reflection on the past, Jumper and the rest of the seniors will continue to look toward the future and fight for another chance to play at Klöckner.
"It's pretty absurd how quickly it goes by," Jumper said. "Me personally, I'm going in with hopefully this isn't my last game at Klöckner. Hopefully we win and get an ACC home game and a couple home games in the NCAA Tournament. We've all put in so much effort for the team, for the University. The idea that it could be our last game at Klöckner is kind of scary."
Tonight's match is slated to begin at 7 p.m.