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Men's soccer to open ACC play at Wake Forest

After dropping from third to 14th in the national rankings, the Virginia men's soccer team travels to Winston-Salem to open ACC play against No. 5 Wake Forest tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

After two disappointing losses at the Fila/Maryland Invitational Tournament last weekend, the Cavaliers rebounded Wednesday night with a 4-1 home victory over Northeastern that garnered coach George Gelnovatch his 100th career win. Forward Sheldon Barnes recorded his first career hat trick to lead the Cavalier offensive attack.

"Coming down from the last two losses that we had, [the Northeastern win] is a good confidence booster," Barnes said. The Wake Forest game "is going to be tougher competition. It's an ACC game, and we have to get up for it. Coming out of this game, we're just supposed to take the play we did in the second half and continue that level of play ... with a lot of intensity and energy. It's going to be on their home field, and they're coming out very hard."

With starting center midfielders Steve Totten and Kenny Arena nursing injuries from last weekend's tournament, Curtis Bush and Eric Solomon anchored the midfield against Northeastern, with Solomon contributing three assists.

While Gelnovatch appreciates the depth of his team, he said he needs a healthy Totten and Arena in uniform against the Demon Deacons tomorrow.

"I think Curtis Bush and Eric Solomon did fine, but we're certainly better there with Totten and Kenny," Gelnovatch said. "We had to give those guys a little bit of rest. The more games I can get guys in, comfortable with playing, the better we'll be down the stretch, especially with injuries."

Aching muscles also have slowed talented freshman forward Alecko Eskandarian, who won ACC Player of the Week honors last week.

"I think he got a little bit tired" against Northeastern, Gelnovatch said. "He's a guy we definitely wanted to give a rest. I probably should've gotten him off the field a little earlier. He's a handful on the left side."

In the team's first five games, Gelnovatch has used sophomore goalkeepers Kyle Singer and David Comfort equally. However, Comfort's shaky play of late has landed Singer the starting job.

Singer "is in there right now because Dave is dropping balls," Gelnovatch explained. Comfort "has got to convince me that he can hold balls in big games before he's going to get back onto the field."

The Deacs are coming off a disappointing 4-2 loss to Liberty Tuesday, and the Cavs expect them to be hungry.

"We started looking forward to [Wake Forest] the minute we walked into the locker room after the [Northeastern] game," Gelnovatch said. "I told the guys, 'Good win. Now it's done. This minute, we start getting ready for Wake Forest.' They're a very good team. They just lost a game that they probably think, in their eyes, they shouldn't have lost, and they're going to be fired up."

Sophomore midfielder Kyle Martino, a preseason candidate for college soccer's MVP award, echoed his coach's sentiments.

"I'm looking forward to [Wake] like no game we've played," Martino said. "It's our first ACC game, and I think Wake is going to be the best team we've played so far. They're not going to sit in and work on a counter-attack."

Martino said he expects Wake Forest to hold nothing back.

"I think it's going to be a great soccer match to play in and a great soccer match to watch," he said. "I'm really excited, because the ACC has got some great competition this year, and this is our first look at it, so we'll see how we're doing against the other teams in the ACC"

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