Q & A With George Gelnovatch
UVa head men’s soccer coach George Gelnovatch recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to recap his team’s amazing run to the 2009 NCAA Championship. Gelnovatch won his first NCAA Championship as a head coach and the program’s sixth overall.
Question: In the opening moments of the National Championship game, Will Bates had a header hit the post. Playing the No. 1 team in the country in Akron, did that help calm the team down to get such a good chance that early in the game?
Gelnovatch: To be honest with you, in the Maryland game in the quarterfinals for example, we scored on less of a chance in the first five minutes of the game. That had an impact on the game. Had we scored that first goal in that first five minutes, I don’t exactly know how it would have played out, but I know how it played out against Maryland when we scored early like that. And I feel like we would have won the game in regulation because I think that is how well we defend. So I think yeah, in answer to your question, when we score early generally we’ve been pretty good.
As the head coach of a program you try to have your finger on the pulse of your team. I think that the minute we stepped into that locker room I knew our team was in a good place. Confident, not too tight, certainly not over confident, all the right things to be prepared for a championship game and they showed it when the whistle blew.
Question: As the game went on, Akron ended up having some good chances of its own. How did it feel to see your team defend so well?
Gelnovatch: Yeah, you hold your breath on a couple of those, but you quickly, quickly let your breath out because you’ve just got to keep breathing and keep going, that’s part of the game. For me the quality opportunities were similar between both teams. I think they had one or two really good looks and we had one or two. Had one team converted those that would have probably been the game.
Question: Your mom and dad were at the game, have they seen you coach a lot or was that a special moment?
Gelnovatch: It was a special thing to be honest with you. My mom is battling breast cancer, and she is just kind of getting through the first year of chemo, just kind of getting her strength back. So really the timing of that National Championship game was perfect because a month ago she would not have been able to do it. You know, six weeks ago she would not have been able to do it. So it was wonderful to have her there and my dad there as well. Especially after all she has been through, I think she really felt great about it and so it just seemed like it was meant to be and that was special for me.
Question: Another moment on the field was when your kids and wife Missy made it into the celebration.
Gelnovatch: Yeah, it’s funny cause you know my wife generally says to me on or around when I leave for that first day of preseason ‘See you at Christmas’. For that to really fulfill itself, you have to be playing for a National Championship. I almost felt like Rocky yelling “Adrian!” I was looking for them, and things had settled down a little bit but I saw them coming out of the corner of my eye and then they made it onto the field and that was a special moment. By then I had already given my parents a big hug and hung out with them then I was able to have both of my kids and wife and take some good pictures and have them on the field enjoy that experience and so that was special.
Question: You have talked about this team being in control of its own destiny, talk about that theme as the weekend progressed.
Gelnovatch: This whole weekend we had been using some stuff from the movie Invictus which is a movie but also the name of a poem written by William Ernest Henley which Nelson Mandela would read over and over to himself while he was in prison. I said it after the Wake Forest game, we’re on the field still in the huddle, I said it’s our destiny to win a National Championship then we followed through with that on Sunday. I really felt like this was predetermined, then we talked about it again going into the final we have control over our own destiny. This is our destiny. Going into the PKs I said to them relax it is determined just take a deep breath let’s finish this game and win a championship. You try to calm them down a little bit going into the PKs, try to find them a way to take a deep breath.
Question: When Akron’s fifth shooter sailed his shot over the crossbar can you pinpoint who or what you thought about first?
Gelnovatch: To be honest with you I thought it was their sixth shooter, so I thought we had to take another kick to win it and so my first reaction was to keep everybody off the field for two seconds. I thought what’s everybody doing?. Then Coach Chulis said that was their fifth shooter and then again because of that, I was thinking okay who is our next shooter, Jordan Evans. So to go from that to … I don’t know if euphoria is the right word. It was surreal. It went from just trying to figure out the whole thing to being with the coaching staff, teammates, parents, my wife and kids and then all the people on the field. It was just awesome.
Question: Anything else stand out in your mind about the game or the weekend at the College Cup?
Gelnovatch: I will say that I told the guys before the final on Sunday and I really meant it that coming from a coaching staff that never have coaches wanted something more for you guys. We were going to give our best, our doctors were going to be at their best, our trainers were going to be at their best. We were going to give you our best so that you can become champions.