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Nov. 22, 2013

There have been several key factors to Virginia’s stellar men’s soccer season this year, but perhaps none bigger than Eric Bird. The team captain and attacking midfielder has scored a team-high six goals and doled out three assists in earning second-team All-ACC honors this year. The Virginia Beach native is one of the veterans on a relatively young squad as it enters NCAA tournament play on Sunday against St. John’s. He reflects on his season, as well as the team’s, in the latest edition of Off the Pitch.

What was it like being named All-ACC?
It was a real honor. The ACC is filled with tradition. Pro players come through there. It’s touted as one of the top conferences, if not the top conference in the country, so it is always an honor and privilege to be named one of the select few.

How have you taken the role as a veteran leader this season?
I think I have stepped into the role pretty well. We knew coming into the season that there wasn’t that go to leader like Will Bates or Greg Monaco like we have had in years past. We had a team meeting and said this has to be a collective leadership. We needed to come together because a lot of young guys are coming in. We needed to all set an example together. I wear the captain’s armband, but it’s not just me. It’s older guys all throughout.

How has playing in the ACC helped to prepare you for the NCAA Tournament?
The ACC is one of the top conferences, so you are getting a great game every single week. It’s that same type of attitude as in an NCAA game. You know it’s not going to be a walk in the park where you win 3-0 every game. You have to come out and play your heart out. Some of the bottom teams will come out and get a tie with a first place team any given night. We have just had to go out every game and play our best.

How will the youth and lack of experience of the team impact the team in the NCAA Tournament?
I don’t think it will be too bad because everyone coming to UVa has some type of experience playing in a very high-level environment. They all understand from the older guys that this is a very important game coming up. I think they will all be ready.

How has George Gelnovatch’s NCAA experience helped your team?
George is our rock. He has pretty much seen it all. It’s always nice to have that to fall back on. He can impart to us his wisdom and gives us that much more confidence on the field.

What has been your favorite moment from this season?
Both of the Notre Dame wins were huge for us. I think that was when we realized that we could play with the top team in the country. We went to their place earlier in the year and beat them 2-0. And then we had the comeback in the ACC Tournament. We were down 2-0 and then 3-1 and got that tie and eventually won in PKs. We had to come together at halftime and say that we weren’t playing well enough and that we needed to come together. We did that and it was a special moment.

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