The Cavalier Daily
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Cavaliers Rediscover Old Magic

Over the last two decades, the Virginia men's soccer program has established itself among the upper echelon of collegiate sports. Winner of five NCAA championships, including four consecutive titles from 1991 to 1994, the star-studded Cavaliers are ever-present near the top of the national standings and perennially host NCAA soccer playoffs at Klockner Stadium.

It has been seven long years since Virginia last celebrated a national soccer title, however, and recent teams have been derailed by a string of postseason defeats.

Driven by memories of three consecutive NCAA quarterfinal losses at home and two losses in the ACC championship game, this year's Virginia squad decided that to do whatever it took to realize its potential and again rise to the summit.

"This team is on a mission," Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said. "They have been around for three or even four years together, in some quarterfinal games where we haven't gotten over the hump and in ACC championships. This team is experienced, it is motivated, and it is on a mission."

Shunning vacations to remain in Charlottesville this summer and train, players ran and worked out daily with strength and conditioning coach Pierre Barrieu. In August, just before the regular season began, the team embarked on a European exhibition tour that brought the players together and provided further experience against solid Dutch and German club teams.

The sacrifices have paid off in spades so far for Virginia (15-0-1), which is ranked No. 2 in the nation with one regular season game remaining against James Madison on Friday, the ACC tournament beginning on Nov. 16 and NCAA tournament starting on Nov. 24. Bolstered by experience, depth and additions to the defense, the Cavaliers recorded their first perfect ACC season (6-0-0) since 1986 - when Gelnovatch was a player for the Cavaliers. Early defensive breakdowns, which were last year's biggest problem, have been almost non-existent this year. Co-captain Marshall Leonard and dynamic central defender Matt Oliver - returning from a redshirt season - have led the Virginia defense to 10 shutouts.

Related Links

  • Official site for Virginia men's soccer
  • "When we came in here we had five freshmen and three sophomores starting and only one senior," junior forward Ryan Gibbs said. "There is just so much more experience that we've had over these last three years. We know how to manage a game now, we know what it is like to lose in the ACC finals two years in a row, in the quarterfinals three years in a row. We have a better understanding of how we should be playing and what it takes."

    Further demonstrating its strength, the team's depth off the bench has allowed it to handle a host of injuries, including ones to offensive stars Kyle Martino and Alecko Eskandarian, without missing a beat. After substituting 10 men off the bench during the second half against UNC-Greensboro on Oct. 30, the Cavaliers still dominated the Spartans and added three late goals in a 7-1 romp.

    "This year we have it," Gelnovatch said. "We know we're a good team. We're 15-0-1, so we have some confidence going into the postseason. This is my sixth season, and part of what I have to do as coach is pace them and manage them. But this team also has a way of managing itself, and that comes from experience and being together"


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