By Steve Kirkland, Athletics Media Relations
In recent times international players have made a greater impact in collegiate soccer. But for a time, that trend had never reached the Grounds of the University of Virginia until one day early in 2005 when head coach George Gelnovatch received an e-mail from a forward in Germany interested in coming to play for UVa.
Gelnovatch flew to Europe to see him play and discovered someone special. That fall, Yannick Reyering was wearing Orange and Blue and establishing himself as one of the best strikers in not only the ACC, but nationally as well.
“His parents are educated people and they felt college in the U.S. was the right thing for him,” Gelnovatch said. “I think it was the perfect fit for him and for us, which is becoming increasingly more difficult to find. It is very challenging these days to find internationals that are quality players and are also eligible.”
For Reyering, the move was a chance to further himself not only as a player, but as a person. He chose to attend Virginia instead of immediately pursuing a career in professional soccer in his homeland.
“It is a different system in Europe,” Reyering said. “I was always interested in both educating myself and competing at a high level. That is something that you can’t get in Europe. That was the main reason why I came, because at UVa I could do that. It was one of the best schools in the country and the soccer team was one of the best nationally, so it was a perfect place for me.”
The 2005 season opened up with a new face in the lineup, one that immediately caught the eye of the Klckner Stadium faithful. After two seasons where the Cavaliers did not have a 10-goal scorer, the attack now featured a German who stood out as much for his 6-6 frame and spiked blonde hair as for his clinical finishing in front of goal. Reyering led the Cavaliers with 14 goals in his rookie campaign and earned first-team All-ACC honors.
“In terms of culture, I was impressed that he fit in so quickly,” Gelnovatch said. “He was a big factor for us in 2005, leading us in goals. Even at that point, his English still wasn’t great and he had no idea what college life in the U.S. was like. By the end of the spring of his first year, his English was excellent. He was very fluent and could joke around with the guys. He was just one of them by that point.”
As the 2006 season began, Reyering was no longer under the radar on the collegiate soccer scene. Named a preseason All-American by Soccer America, he had become one of the most feared scorers in the nation. However, his style was different than many of the other top forwards at the collegiate level.
“A lot of college soccer players that are goal scorers are these raw athletes that can just run like crazy behind people and get a lot of their goals that way,” Gelnovatch said. “Yannick doesn’t score on breakaways. He scores by getting himself in front of goal, getting on the end of crosses, and putting in anything loose in the box. If he gets a good look, whether it’s with his head, side-footing a ball, or driving it with his in-step, left or right foot, he is getting it on goal.”
As much as the American players have had to adjust to Reyering’s more European style of play, he also has had to adjust to the American game. It is something that he feels has only improved his abilities.
“My game has developed a lot here,” Reyering said. “It is a different style of play in the United States. It is more physical here. I have learned a lot about this style and also about discipline, passion and the team building the coaches stress to us.”
Reyering followed up his strong rookie season with another productive year in 2006. He again led the team in scoring, finding the back of the net 12 times. In addition, the team reached the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament, the Cavaliers’ first trip to the College Cup in nine seasons.
This year Reyering is once again among the top scorers in the ACC and Virginia is again a team capable of success in the postseason. Yet when the season is done, the forward will have to make another decision on his future, whether to pursue a professional career in Major League Soccer or in his native Germany.
“I have been asked that question so many times,” Reyering admits. “I don’t know exactly know where it will take me. It will be a tough decision. I have my family and friends pulling me back to Germany, but on the other hand I like it here so much that I want to stay.”
Either way, it looks like the ranks of former Cavaliers playing professional soccer is about to grow, whether that is in this country or in Europe. But before Yannick Reyering makes that decision, he has some unfinished business to attend to.
“Last year’s road to the final four and the trip to St. Louis was a highlight for me,” Reyering said. “But I hope that the biggest highlight of my UVa career is still to come this season.”