Soccer captures 2009 NCAA title with PK win
Cavaliers win 3-2 in penalty kicks against No. 1 Akron, claim sixth championship in program history
On August 24, 2009, the Class of 2013’s final day of orientation before embarking on the four-year journey which will culminate with Sunday’s Final Exercises, the Virginia men’s soccer team dropped a 3-1 exhibition to Old Dominion. Though the outcome technically held no bearing on the Cavaliers’ record, it hardly portended the degree of success which would ensue in the coming months.
Indeed, just more than three months after dropping a preseason game against a mid-tier CAA opponent, No. 2 Virginia ousted No. 1 Akron in a penalty shootout to claim the program’s sixth NCAA national championship and first under longtime coach George Gelnovatch. The title marked the first of the four varsity national championships Virginia has acquired since the Class of 2013’s arrival and highlighted the 2009-10 athletics season.
In a sport in which casual fans clamor for pulsating action and prolific scoring, the 2009 Cavaliers quickly validated their predicted second place ACC finish by smothering teams with a swarming, relentless defense. Led by junior goalie Diego Restrepo, a transfer from South Florida, Virginia finished the season’s first month having allowed just four goals and ascended to No. 13 in the NSCAA college rankings.
Somehow, the Cavaliers were even stingier thereafter. Bolstered by offensive help from the precocious duo of freshman Will Bates and sophomore Tony Tchani, Restrepo and the impenetrable back line spurred the squad to an eight-game unbeaten streak to close the regular season on a tear. As a No. 5 seed in the ACC Tournament, Virginia upset top-seeded Wake Forest in a classic 5-4 shootout in the semifinals before a Bates goal in the final secured a 1-0 victory against NC State and the program’s 10th conference crown. Restrepo was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after holding each of the Cavaliers’ three opponents scoreless.
After never scoring more than three goals in a game all season, No. 2 seed Virginia opened the NCAA Tournament by pasting Bucknell 5-0 at Klöckner Field. A typically ugly but effective 1-0 triumph against Portland followed to set up an NCAA Quarterfinal with archrival Maryland. Touted as a potential nail-biter after the teams had played two closely contested slugfests in the regular season, the game ended in a rout after a Restrepo save on a penalty kick helped preserve a 3-0 romp for Virginia. The shutout was the 11th consecutive for Restrepo, a program record.
At the College Cup — the traditional name for the NCAA semifinal and final rounds — the Cavaliers faced the unenviable prospect of defeating a sensational Wake Forest squad for a third consecutive time. Again, though, they proved ready for the challenge, with sophomore forward Brian Ownby’s goal just three minutes into overtime thrusting Virginia to a 2-1 semifinal win. The final garnered national attention as a riveting showdown between two perennial soccer titans, Virginia and Akron. After more than 110 minutes of scoreless action, the Zips’ Blair Gavin airmailed his penalty kick to clinch Virginia’s first national title since 1994. The Cavaliers ended the season on a 16-game win streak.
Several individual superlatives accentuated the team success. Restrepo and senior midfielder Jonathan Villanueva earned plaudits as the Defensive and Offensive MVP of the College Cup, while Restrepo joined Tchani on the College Soccer News All-America First Team.
In addition, Soccer America deemed Bates the nation’s top freshman for 2009 and awarded Gelnovatch his first Coach of the Year award in his tenure with Virginia.
The Virginia record books illustrate the extent of the school’s most dominant defense in history. Thanks immensely to Restrepo’s unprecedented excellence, the 2009 squad still holds record for goals allowed in a season (8), shutouts (17) and goals against average (0.30). Perhaps most astoundingly, the Cavaliers never lost a game that season in which they managed to score a goal.
Of the six players on the 2012 roster who played on the national title team, only Bates and Ari Dimas have exhausted their eligibility. After an ACL injury jeopardized his bright career, Bates bounced back to score 12 goals in 2012, good for second in the ACC. He is currently playing with Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS.
They may not have always played the prettiest or most prolific style of soccer. But for an athletics program hindered at the time by abysmal football and men’s basketball squads,