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Cavalier keepers pull double duty

Midway through last season, Virginia starting goalkeeper Kyle Singer discovered he had mononucleosis and would have to sit out the rest of the soccer season. Fellow sophomore David Comfort replaced Singer in net and played surprisingly well, posting a 6-3 record and helping to lead the Cavs to the NCAA Elite Eight.

Ever since then, a cloud of controversy has hung ominously over both goalkeepers' heads. The question was clear: Who was going to step up in 2000 and become Virginia's No. 1 goalkeeper?

"The position was up in the air," said Singer, a redshirt sophomore. "It was still up in the air after preseason. I spent all season working as hard as I could to get here, but it came down to who was going to play well one week, and that's a lot of pressure to be under."

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    After rotating with Comfort early this season, Singer appeared to have won the job when he found himself in the starting lineup for six consecutive games. But following his poor performance in the Cavaliers' 3-2 overtime loss to William & Mary Sept. 27, Singer once again finds himself sharing the job with Comfort.

    "With somebody so close to you, you have to play your best every game," Singer said. "Unfortunately, I didn't have one of my better games against William & Mary, and Dave came in here and played well against N.C. State, so the goalkeeping question has been brought into the picture again."

    Both goalkeepers admit it has been taxing not knowing who will be called on to mind the Cav net from game to game.

    "It's kind of hard to get a feel for playing behind the team," Comfort said. "You'll start to get a feel, and then you won't be starting that game, or you could play two of three games in a row and sit down. When you hop back in, it's all out of whack and out of sync with the team. It's kind of hard for me and Kyle and probably the team as well. It's just hard to get in rhythm."

    Not knowing whether he will play, Singer has found it difficult to prepare for games.

    "I think it's more distracting off the field," Singer said. "It's hard dealing with preparing for a game and you don't know that you're going to play. It's the not knowing. It just makes it hard, and your mind is kind of racked, but I think once you step out onto the field you just put that all aside and you just have to go out there and play."

    Virginia coach George Gelnovatch has yet to announce whether Comfort or Singer will get the starting nod Sunday at No. 9 Clemson (8-2-1, 1-2 ACC). Throughout the season, Gelnovatch has stressed that the goalkeeping duties are up for grabs. He expects both keepers to be solid enough to make one big save per game. With most opponents playing conservatively against the No. 15 Cavs (8-3-1, 3-0), who have faced only 8.4 shots per game, Singer and Comfort often find themselves lulled into a false sense of security on the field. The lack of action in the back hinders the goalkeepers' ability to remain focused in the game.

    "It's hard to come from a stagnant position and make a play, but I think the key is to block everything out: Block the crowd out, block out the fact that you're not touching the ball, and just stay with the play," Singer said.

    But some things just cannot be blocked out.

    The goalkeeping platoon "is always in the back of your mind," Singer said. "You try to block it out, but deep down inside, it's there."

    Twelve games into the season, Virginia is back to square one. Singer or Comfort? Comfort or Singer?

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