Reinvigorated Cavs visit No. 1 Terps
Players receive needed rest; road matchup against Maryland looms closer
The Virginia men’s soccer team squares off with No. 1 Maryland Friday evening in the unfriendly confines of Ludwig Field in College Park, Md. The Cavaliers (5-4-1, 1-2-0 ACC) aim to upset the undefeated Terrapins (8-0-1, 3-0-0 ACC) to shift the balance of power in the ACC.
Virginia, however, will need a drastic turnaround after its 2-0 loss at the hands of Clemson last Friday at Klöckner Stadium. The return of injured sophomore forward Chris Somerville was not enough to spark a worn-down Cavalier squad battling both injuries and a marathon of seven games in 22 days.
Senior forward Will Bates was quick to dismiss the grueling schedule as an excuse for the team’s play.
“Everybody’s playing the same amount of games,” Bates said. “That’s just the reality we have to accept and understand that it doesn’t make it a handicap, we just have to start taking responsibility.”
The Cavaliers do have the luxury of a full week’s time to rest and prepare before taking on the Terrapins. The time off has allowed many of the team’s injured players to recover and begin practicing again, including forward duo freshman Darius Madison and sophomore Ryan Zinkhan. These additions will likely boost the potency of a team that averages 1.4 goals per game.
“The guys seem to be reenergized,” coach George Gelnovatch said. “I hope [this week] is reenergizing both mentally and physically.”
The Cavaliers will need to be on top form to compete with a Maryland squad that fell one vote shy of a unanimous No. 1 national ranking. The Terrapins boast an explosive offense and a fervent fan base situated in one of the most intimidating stadiums in college soccer.
“They are right on top of the field,” Gelnovatch said. “They are pretty loud, obnoxious and some of our guys are going to have to get used to it pretty quick.”
Maryland’s high-powered offense has given its supporters plenty of reasons to be loud this season. Paced by junior forward Patrick Mullins’ team-high five goals and six assists, the Terrapins average 3.33 goals per game. Maryland features a trio of players with four goals apiece in redshirt junior forward Jake Pace, senior midfielder John Stertzer and freshman forward Schillo Tshuma.
“They’re definitely scoring some goals,” Gelnovatch said. “We’re certainly not going in there looking to drop into our half of the field and try to figure out a way to stop them from scoring.”
Gelnovatch insists that the Cavaliers will not be intimidated into playing passively. Instead Virginia will try to keep possession of the ball. Scoring may prove difficult for the Cavaliers, however, as the Terrapins allow a paltry 0.78 goals per game and have shut out opponents five times in their last nine games.
The play on the wing will be a crucial cog in breaking down Maryland’s stout defense. Madison and fellow freshman speedster forward Marcus Salandy-Defour will work out on the wings to cross the ball into the box and create solid scoring chances for the Cavaliers.
“We’re very dangerous,” Gelnovatch said. “Darius is very dangerous, Marcus is very dangerous, and we create chances. That’s how we’re trying to do it on Friday.”
Friday’s game will test the young Virginia team, but Gelnovatch has faith his team can go toe-to-toe with the Terrapins.
“Our plan is to not concede early, to go into halftime without conceding a goal,” Gelnovatch said. “I think you’re in great shape to start playing your game and get at it a bit.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.