By Jeff White (jwhite@virginia..edu)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — On the UVa men’s soccer team that won the NCAA championship in December 2009, Hunter Jumper starred for a defense that was virtually impregnable late in the season.
The Cavaliers were more porous in 2010, in part because Jumper had moved from left back to holding midfielder, where he replaced Ross LaBauex.
“He was fine,” Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said, but Jumper didn’t have the same impact in the midfield. And so Gelnovatch moved the 6-2, 175-pound rising senior back to his former position this spring.
“He’s better, and our team is better, with him at that left back position,” Gelnovatch said.
The Wahoos went 11-6-3 last season, with Jumper contributing one goal and no assists. As a sophomore in 2009, he totaled one goal and four assists for a team that finished 19-3-3 and won the program’s sixth NCAA title.
“As an outside back, left or right, the way we play, I expect those guys to attack down the flanks,” Gelnovatch said. “They’re like defenders, but they’re also wingers. It’s a certain niche that Hunter is really good at. He’s a good defender, he’s left-footed, but he’s also so good at helping us get out of the back, keeping the ball, handling the ball, passing the ball.
“He scored three goals this spring. He was our second-leading goal-scorer, from a left back position. He’s a legitimate pro prospect at that position.”
Jumper has been reunited with two other starters from the 2009 defense, center backs Greg Monaco and Mike Volk. Sean Murnane, who started at right back last season, has left the program, Gelnovatch said, so a replacement must be found at that spot in the fall. Candidates will include rising sophomore Bryan Lima and incoming freshman Grant Silvester.
Silvester is one of the jewels of the recruiting class that signed with UVa in February. The ‘Hoos return most of their 2010 starters — Jumper, Monaco, Volk, forwards Will Bates, Brian Ownby and Brian Span, midfielders Ari Dimas and Jimmy Simpson, among them — but Gelnovatch expects several freshmen to play significant roles in the fall.
One of them, Spencer LaCivita, may replace Diego Restrepo at goalie. Other first-years to remember include midfielder Eric Bird, forward Chris Somerville and twins Calvin and Conner Rezende, midfielders from Davie, Fla.
Jumper’s replacement at holding midfielder? That could be Bird, one of the Rezende twins or, perhaps, Dimas.
“That’s really the biggest thing for us,” Gelnovatch said, “getting a couple of central midfield spots organized. We should be strong in the back, and in the attack I think we’re going to be great.”
Bates led the Cavaliers with 20 points last season, on eight goals and four assists. Ownby was next with 17 points, followed by Span with 13.
“Those three guys are a handful,” Gelnovatch said.
The Cavaliers’ spring went exceptionally well, and the mood around the program is upbeat heading into the summer.
“We had a great schedule, and results to match,” Gelnovatch said.
In College Park, Md., UVa played D.C. United’s reserves for 40 minutes and lost 1-0. A 45-minute scrimmage against Maryland followed, and the ‘Hoos won 4-1, with Bates scoring all four goals.
“That’s the only time we’ve ever scored four goals [on the Terrapins] at their place,” Gelnovatch said. “And then earlier in the spring we played them a half as well, in another kind of three-team round-robin, and beat them 2-0.”
LaCivita enrolled at UVa in January. The rest of the incoming class will arrive this summer. Gelnovatch’s challenge will be to blend the newcomers with his veterans.
In 2008, the Cavaliers finished 11-9-1, in part because Gelnovatch had freshmen in leading roles. The coming season should be different, he said, because the first-year players will be complemented by “money, experienced guys. They’re not just tweeners. They are legitimate full-time, been-there guys that can, I hope, make up for the lack of experience of four or five other guys who are very talented.
“So it’s going to be interesting, and fun, to be honest with you.”