April 1, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Nearly four months have passed since UVa won the NCAA men’s soccer championship in Cary, N.C.
Veteran coach George Gelnovatch doesn’t have his full 2010 roster yet — Virginia’s incoming freshmen won’t arrive until this summer — but fans who want to take an early look at next season’s team will have opportunities to do so this spring.
The Cavaliers have four games left before wrapping up spring workouts. The first is Saturday at University of Richmond Stadium, where UVa takes on the Richmond Kickers at 4 p.m. The Kickers compete in the United Soccer Leagues’ Second Division.
For information on the match, visit richmondkickers.com.
Virginia’s one exhibition in Charlottesville this spring is Thursday, April 8. At 5 p.m., UVa will host Liberty at Klöckner Stadium.
From a team that finished 19-3-3, Gelnovatch returns numerous key players, including goalie Diego Restrepo, defenders Mike Volk, Greg Monaco, Shawn Barry and Hunter Jumper, forwards Will Bates and Brian Ownby, and midfielders Ari Dimas and Jimmy Simpson.
“We’re pretty intact,” Gelnovatch said Thursday. “Obviously, from a defensive standpoint, we kept our four backs and our goalkeeper, so five pretty important people are here, and that’s the spine of our team.”
The biggest losses: midfielders Jonathan Villanueva and Tony Tchani, who was an All-American, and forward/midfielders Ross LaBauex and Neil Barlow.
Ownby is still slowed by a groin injury. When he’s healthy again, however, Ownby should take Barlow’s “spot, no problem, as that really dangerous guy wide,” Gelnovatch said.
“What we’re trying to piece together is the center of the midfield.”
That’s where Villanueva, Tchani and LaBauex were so effective. Candidates for those spots include Simpson, Sean Murnane and Howard Turk, who was a starter in 2008.
“He has done really well in Ross’ position,” Gelnovatch said of Turk, a rising junior. “He’s unbelievably athletic, very much like Ross.”
Of the players who signed with UVa in February, Brian “Cobi” Span, a 6-3 forward from New York, is the most likely to have an immediate impact.
“I think we have an important part of our team intact, which is the defense,” Gelnovatch said. “We build from the back on our team, and I think we have a pretty good attacking group in Bates and Ownby, when he’s healthy. It’s really just trying to figure out the middle of that midfield, and we’re working on it.”
The ‘Hoos are also adjusting to the loss of Mike McGinty, who left last month to become head coach at Saint Louis. McGinty spent 11 seasons on Gelnovatch’s staff, the final two as associate head coach.
“We’re obviously all happy for him,” Gelnovatch said. “He deserves his own program. He deserves an opportunity, and that’s a pretty big-time opportunity.”
Saint Louis has won 10 NCAA titles in men’s soccer.