Lucky Number Seven

Men's soccer wins seventh national championship, defeats UCLA in penalty kicks

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A year ago, the Virginia men’s soccer team was tested throughout the regular season, but caught fire at the right time, making a run to the College Cup before losing to Maryland in the national semifinals.

The 2014 season mirrored many of last year’s same trials and tribulations for the Cavaliers. But this time, no one could spoil Virginia’s championship run.

In a battle between two of the nation’s elite soccer programs, Virginia (14-6-3) defeated second-seeded UCLA (14-5-5) — prevailing 4-2 in penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation and two extra-time periods — to win the program’s seventh national championship.

Behind a conservative, defensive oriented approach which included three saves by senior goalkeeper Calle Brown, sophomore forward Riggs Lennon buried Virginia’s final penalty kick straight down the middle, sending a sea of orange and blue onto the Cary, N.C. field to hoist the title trophy.

A shot at a championship seemed rather far-fetched a month ago after the Cavaliers were ousted from the ACC tournament thanks to a 3-0 loss against Notre Dame.

But the early elimination served as a blessing in disguise for coach George Gelnovatch, as he had two full weeks to regroup his team and make the changes he was unable to during a hectic regular season.

The Cavaliers abandoned their 3-5-2 formation, instead opting to go with four defenders along the back line in an effort to sure up breakdowns that plagued Virginia during the regular season.

But perhaps more critical was a much needed offensive boost. Despite playing without senior midfielder Eric Bird — the team’s leading goal scorer — for most of the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers outscored their opponents 6-2 in the final five games.

Virginia notched victories against North Carolina Wilmington, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Maryland Baltimore County before ultimately defeating the Bruins. The win marked the second national championship for Gelnovatch, with both coming in the past five seasons.

—compiled by Robert Elder

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