Cavaliers face the Mount
The Virginia men’s soccer team continues its six-game homestand Tuesday night as it welcomes Mount St. Mary’s to Klöckner Stadium at 7 p.m.
After winning two of the first three games on their home pitch, the Cavaliers (2-2, 1-0 ACC) do not plan on changing much as they prepare for the Mount.
“It’s the same thing week in and week out,” senior forward Will Bates said. “We’ll take it the same way as always. We don’t really change a whole lot depending on who the opponent is.”
The Cavaliers come off a tight 1-0 victory against Duke last Friday night. The hard-fought contest proved a propitious ACC opener for the young squad.
“My first reaction [to the game] is, holy smokes,” coach George Gelnovatch said. “It’s great to get three points in [the ACC]. It’s a good start to the conference.”
Virginia rode the strength of its defense as it held the Blue Devils to six total shots, only two of which were on goal. The Cavalier backline sustained injuries to starters Sean Murnane and Zach Carroll but continued to thwart the majority of Duke’s combination plays.
The stellar defense gave Virginia’s attack, which looked strong in possession all game, more than enough time to find the back of the net. In the 58th minute, after a cross into the box from sophomore forward Chris Somerville, freshman forward Marcus Salandy-Defour, with only one defender to beat, smartly found Bates open to his left for the go-ahead score.
Bates missed the final six games last season with an ACL injury, and the goal was the first of his season. It was also the 35th in his Cavalier career, leaving him only two shy of top-10 in the school’s history. The finish was clinical and proved Bates’ knee has fully recovered — a good sign for the Cavaliers.
“I feel fine striking the ball any way now,” Bates said. “I don’t have any pain, whether it’s inside of the foot, outside of the foot, or top of the foot. Nothing’s bothering me anymore.”
In Tuesday night’s contest Virginia’s objective remains the same. Even though the Mount (1-3) hail from the lowly NEC and were picked to finish sixth in the conference, Virginia views this game not as a cakewalk but as a test in its continual need to protect its home field.
“We want to defend Klöckner.” sophomore midfielder Eric Bird said. “We think that in the remaining games at home, we can get a [positive] result every single time. So that’s the goal.”
Mount St. Mary’s finished 8-7-2 last season to earn its first winning record since 2003. The team returns its leading scorer from a year ago, sophomore midfielder Zoncher Dennis. Dennis tallied 11 goals and one assist last year but has yet to score a point this year.
The Mountaineers’ offense has been anemic through four games this season, scoring only two total goals. It will get no easier for them to find the net Tuesday night, as sophomore keeper Spencer LaCivita has proven to be a rock in goal for the Cavaliers.
LaCivita had a historic year last season, as he became the first true freshman to start a season opener in goal in Gelnovatch’s 17 years with the team. LaCivita started all 21 matches in his first year and recorded the third most single-season saves in Virginia history. After missing almost the entire offseason because of a hernia surgery, everything looks on track for the sophomore stud, which bodes well for the Cavalier defense.
“Spencer has regained his form,” Gelnovatch said. “He’s doing well, and to me he’s regaining his confidence… The better he gets, the more experience we get across the back, good things will happen”
The Cavaliers only have a couple days to rest between the win against Duke Friday and the contest with Mount St. Mary’s Tuesday night, but they also realize no drastic renovations are necessary.
“We’ll look at film and look at things where we were broken down a little bit and we’ll mention those things and try to fix them,” Bates said. “But no major changes or anything.”