Men's Soccer bests Syracuse, 2-0
Virginia moves above .500 for first time this season, earns shutout road victory
Virginia earned its first ACC win on Saturday in a 2-0 victory against new member Syracuse in the Cavaliers’ fourth conference match of the season. Though the players certainly would have preferred a faster start to the season, they understand that results are difficult to come by given the high level of play in the ACC.
“We have some of the best teams in the country right here in our region,” junior defender Brian Lima said. “The challenge is, just, you get no weekends off. Every weekend you’re playing against a top competitor, and you always have to regenerate and get ready.”
The win against Syracuse was a huge relief for the Cavaliers. Despite heroic last efforts against Wake Forest and North Carolina State, Virginia was still searching for a conference win.
“That was our first huge, grind-it-out game,” Lima said.
Virginia took an early lead against Syracuse that it would never relinquish when freshman midfielder Jordan Allen scored his second goal of the season just six minutes into the match. Sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Gal only needed one save to record the shutout in a strong defensive performance.
The Cavaliers have yet to win a game this season when their opponent scored first. Virginia coach George Gelnovatch, who earned his 250th career win against Providence last week, realizes the importance of striking early as the team continues deeper into conference play.
“I think, especially on the road, but even moving forward here [at home], … the important thing for us is to not give up early goals,” Gelnovatch said. “So I think that’s one of the things that helped us [earn] our first ACC win.”
This season, the ACC expanded by three teams with the additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame. Next season, Louisville, which defeated Virginia 2-1 in an early season contest, will join the conference, taking Maryland’s place.
After a contest Tuesday against No. 17 Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia will face another ACC newcomer, Pittsburgh, on Friday.
“It just adds more to the challenge,” Lima said. “These are teams that are great, great teams, like we saw from Syracuse … Notre Dame just came in. They’re another top-caliber team.”
While other teams and conferences across the country have begun to play a more physical brand of soccer, the Cavaliers and the rest of the ACC continue to focus on a more fundamental and technical style of play.
“I think the ACC from top to bottom is filled with talent,” Gelnovatch said. “There’s some teams with a contingent of foreign players, too, that are talented. That team we played at Syracuse the other night was mostly foreign guys. And then, of course, some of the best American players are in this league, and good coaching, so that combination of things breeds good — lots of passing — just good soccer.”