No. 2 Virginia Defeats UAB 2-1 in Season-Opener
CHARLOTTESVILLE – The second-ranked Virginia men’s soccer team won its season-opener on Friday night, defeating UAB, 2-1, at Klöckner Stadium. Sophomore Will Bates (Chester, Va.) scored the game-winning goal in the 74th minute, while sophomore Sean Hiller (Howell, N.J.) scored one goal and assisted on another.
“I felt like we played some of our best soccer of the year tonight,” Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said. “We played a quality opponent, and that opponent scored a quality goal. We were forced to respond to that, and our response was excellent.”
With the win, Virginia improved to 1-0 on the young season and extended its unbeaten streak to 17 games (14-0-3), dating back to an Oct. 2, 2009 loss at North Carolina. The Cavaliers also remained unbeaten in Klöckner Stadium for the 11th-consecutive contest.
After a scoreless first half, the Cavaliers trailed 1-0 after UAB (0-1) forward Babayele Sodade lifted a curling shot into the upper right corner of the net from 20 yards out in the 58th minute. Flo Liu assisted on the goal with his throw-in.
It was the first time Virginia had trailed in a game since Virginia Tech led 1-0 on Oct. 17, 2009 in Blacksburg, Va. UVa went on to win that contest, 3-1.
After sophomore Sean Murnane (Centreville, Va.) was fouled in the penalty box, Hiller converted the ensuing penalty kick in the 61st minute to even the score at 1-1. It was Hiller’s first career goal.
In the 74th minute, Hiller crossed a ball from the left side and found Bates in front of the goal. Bates headed in his first goal of the season (13th of his career and sixth game-winner of his career). For Hiller, it was his first-career assist.
Senior goalkeeper Diego Restrepo (West Palm Beach, Fla.) finished with one save. UAB keeper Carl Woszczynski had eight saves as the Cavaliers out-shot the Blazers, 20-5. Virginia held a 6-0 advantage in corner kicks.
Prior to kick-off, a national championship flag was raised to commemorate the program’s 2009 NCAA Championship. Former Cavalier, current undergraduate assistant coach and 2002 National Player of the Year Alecko Eskandarian raised the flag as a representative of the program. In addition to last year’s crown, the Cavaliers won NCAA titles in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994.
Virginia improved to 43-21-3 all-time in season-openers, dating back to the 1941 season, while Gelnovatch improved his mark to 12-3 in season-openers since his first year at the helm in 1996.
Up next, Virginia hosts No. 17 St. John’s on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium. Earlier Friday, the Red Storm defeated Virginia Tech, 2-0, behind goals from Pablo Battuto Punyed and Tadeu Terra.
Prior to Sunday’s game vs. St. John’s, Virginia Tech and UAB will play a noon contest at Klöckner Stadium.