By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The students who help make Klöckner Stadium so raucous during men’s soccer games — you may know them as the Wahooligans — surged forward at one end when the final second ticked off the clock Friday night.
UVa players joined the supporters’ celebration. The party was on.
The ‘Hoos are headed to the College Cup.
In a dominating performance, second-seeded Virginia eliminated defending national champion Maryland from the NCAA tournament. With Bruce Arena looking on in approval from the press box, the Cavaliers whipped the Terrapins 3-0 before a jubilant crowd of 4,900.
“It’s a quarterfinal, it’s the right to go to the College Cup,” George Gelnovatch said. “I don’t know how many fans were there, but the place was unbelievable, this atmosphere. And it was against our most heated rival.
“You couldn’t put a better recipe together for us to come out with a win like this, for the players, the program, the school, everything about it.”
This is Gelnovatch’s 14th season as head coach at his alma mater, where he succeeded the legendary Arena, who guided UVa to five NCAA titles. The Cavaliers are making their third trip to the final four under Gelnovatch and second in four seasons.
In 2006, UVa lost 4-0 to UCLA in the semifinals. First-year players on that Virginia team included Neil Barlow, who had a goal and an assist Friday night.
“It feels awesome,” Barlow said. “I still have a sour taste in my mouth from that semifinal against UCLA my freshman year. I remember walking off that field just feeling terrible. I’d love to see UCLA again and maybe get revenge on them.”
Wake Forest hosts UCLA on Saturday night. UVa (17-3-3) will meet the winner in a Dec. 11 semifinal at Cary, N.C.
As the No. 2 seed, Virginia was awarded a first-round bye in the NCAAs. Three games at Klöckner followed — against Bucknell, Portland and Maryland, respectively — and the Cavaliers swept them by a combined score of 9-0.
The shutout Friday night surprised no one. The Cavaliers haven’t allowed a goal since Oct. 17, when they beat Virginia Tech 3-1 in Blacksburg, and their string of shutouts has reached 13 games.
“We peaked at the right moment,” goalkeeper Diego Restrepo said.
The Streak, Gelnovatch said, is the result of a superior keeper and a stellar defense, “but it’s also our team mentality. Guys are blocking shots, guys are throwing their bodies in front of plays, guys are heading balls out, guys are getting behind the ball.”
Restrepo, a redshirt junior, has not allowed a goal in 1,107 minutes and 34 seconds.
“It’s been a remarkable feat,” Maryland coach Sasha Cirovski said.
The Terrapins (15-6-2) had several opportunities to end Restrepo’s streak. The most dramatic came in the 66th minute, when he dived to his right to save a penalty kick by Jason Herrick.
In an exhibition game last year, when Restrepo played for the University of South Florida, Herrick had gone the same way — and scored — against him on a penalty kick. Restrepo’s save Friday night came with UVa leading 2-0.
“It was a crucial time,” he said. “It’s a completely different game if it’s 2-1 with 25 minutes left.”
Barlow was credited with the Cavaliers’ first goal, but his shot, from 20 yards out, actually deflected off a Maryland defender and got past goalkeeper Zac MacMath in the sixth minute.
“It gave us some confidence,” Gelnovatch said. “But to be honest with you, we scored that goal in the first five minutes, and the next 20 minutes or so we had a hard time kind of getting a hold of the ball and getting out.
“We had to make some adjustments. But the second half we made a couple of adjustments, and then it was lights out. Then we had control of the game.”
In the 59th minute, Barlow, from the left corner, set up freshman forward Will Bates, who headed in his team-leading 12th goal.
“Bates is great in the air,” Barlow said. “You put the ball near him, he’ll go up and get it, and he’ll finish it. So I just knew that if I put a decent ball in there, Bates would go and get it.”
With 12:38 left, Bates departed to a warm ovation from the crowd. About 30 seconds later, his replacement, Jordan Evans, one-timed a through ball from Tony Tchani, and the Wahoos’ College Cup dream became reality.
“Obviously, as the leader of the program, it’s pretty satisfying,” Gelnovatch said. He’s especially proud that some of his seniors are headed to the final four for the second time.
“That’s fantastic,” Gelnovatch said.