Nov. 24, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia men’s soccer team opened its 2013 NCAA Tournament with a 2-0 second-round victory over St. John’s Sunday afternoon in frigid, blustery conditions at Klöckner Stadium. Seeded eighth in the tournament, the Cavaliers (11-5-5) advance to the round of 16 to ninth-seeded Marquette, which downed Akron 1-0 in overtime Sunday evening in Milwaukee.

“This time of year, winning is the most important thing,” Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said. “I would say today was a professional performance. That first goal and how we managed the game and played together were all great. It was very methodical and professional. They had a bad taste in their mouths (after the ACC championship game). I didn’t have to say anything all week. From the start, they wanted to get another game and it showed today.”

Virginia made its 33rd-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance – the longest current streak in Division I soccer. The Cavaliers advanced to the second weekend of tournament play for the first time since winning the 2009 national championship.

The Cavaliers scored both of their goals off set pieces – a first-half goal from Ryan Zinkhan (Jr., Fredericksburg, Va.) and a second-half score from Eric Bird (Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.). Bird recorded a goal and an assist in the win.

St. John’s (11-7-2) out-shot Virginia, 9-8, and put four shots on goal to three for the Cavaliers. UVa took five corner kicks to one for the Red Storm.

UVa goalkeeper Calle Brown (R-Jr., Leesburg, Va.) saved all four of the Red Storm’s shots on goal in recording the Cavaliers’ 10th clean sheet of the season. Rafael Diaz made one save in goal for St. John’s.

Virginia put on a beautiful passing display to score first in the 35th minute. Patrick Foss (Fr., South Riding, Va.) sent a free kick into the box and found Bird, who headed the ball back into the six-yard box to Zinkhan, who headed into the upper left corner for his fourth goal of the year.

The Cavaliers struck again in the 64th minute. Scott Thomsen (So., Brick, N.Y.) lofted a corner kick across the box toward the far post, where Bird went up in traffic and headed it past Diaz for the goal. It was Bird’s team-leading seventh score of the season. St. John’s had allowed just one goal in its previous five matches.

Tickets for the third-round contest with Marquette are $9 for reserved seats, $7 for adult general admission and $5 for youth/student/senior citizen general admission. Fans can order tickets online at and by phone through the Virginia Athletics Ticket Office at 800-542-UVA1 (8821) or 434-924-UVA1 (8821). Tickets are also available at the Klöckner Stadium box office beginning at noon on game day. Gates will open at noon.

Junior Midfielder Ryan Zinkhan on momentum of scoring first goal
“One of the things we talked about in the locker room was to come out in the first five minutes and we come out and send a message. We wanted to start on our front foot and I think we did that pretty well today.”

Junior midfielder Eric Bird on importance of second goal
“It was huge. We didn’t want to let them back into the game. We wanted to come out flying like we did in the first half and we got a second one and put the game to rest. It was off of a corner kick. Scott hit a great ball and I just had to knock it in.”

Ryan Zinkhan on responding after the loss to Maryland.
“I think all week in practice, we kind of had a bad taste in our mouths. We wanted that next game because we got it stolen from us in the ACC Championship. We wanted to come back out and go after another trophy.”

Bird on importance of going to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2009
“It is huge. Knowing what they did in 2009, it is huge for the program. We are really looking forward to it.”

George Gelnovatch opening statement
“This time of year, winning is the most important thing. I would say today was a professional performance. That first goal and how we managed the game and played together were all great. It was very methodical and professional. Ryan was right when he said they had a bad taste in their mouths. I didn’t have to say anything all week. From the start, they wanted to get another game and it showed to day.”

What is the effect of the first goal in NCAA games?
“Since 2010, when St. John’s has scored first, they have only lost one game. I didn’t even tell my team that. That is a powerful statistic. Today, that goal meant a lot for us. I also think when a team is on the road and we were playing like we were, it is psychological. It beats you down a little bit. I think when they came here earlier in the year, it was similar. I think the second goal was what really got them down.”

Gelnovatch on how much the weather played a factor.
“Not too much. On the kicking, it made it a little bit harder. I thought that Calle’s kicks in the first half were very good, opposed to their keeper when he went against the win. His kicks were barely making it out of their half. We chose to go against the win first so we wouldn’t have to defend against the wind in the second half as much.”

Gelnovatch on importance of winning in regulation
“I think we played nine overtime games. I think that has prepared us for good games. We have played games like this all year long. We have played good games in and out of conference. We knew what to expect.”

Gelnovatch on calmness of Calle Brown
“I think part of it is that he is an older guy. I think that has had an effect on him. Ever since he started against Boston College, he has been steady. I think he is completely comfortable, and it shows.”

On Scott Thomsen coming in the game today
“I thought Patrick Foss was fine today. I just think at half he looked a little tired and lethargic. When you have a guy like Scott, we felt like putting him would put some freshness into the game. I think he added a lot.”

St. John’s coach Dr. Dave Masur statement
“Virginia is a very good team. We have been down here twice and have lost both times. They have a young, talented, athletic, and very well coached team. We knew it was going to be a tough match and we gave away a couple of crosses that turned into goals. I’m disappointed about that, but give credit to Virginia, who could keep the pressure on us, especially in the first half.”

Masur on importance of the first goal
“The first goal is always important. We have done fairly well when scoring first. I think it was important, but the second goal was even bigger. When carrying a one goal lead, it is hard to keep pressure up, so that second goal made it a bigger uphill climb.”

Masur on success in the attacking third of the field
“I’m not sure we had a ton of success in the attacking third today. We didn’t get too many clean looks. We had nine shots. After conceding the second goal, we pushed forward and had more options of attacking on the field. That allowed us to get a couple of good chances. We had some great chances on shots from outside.”

Masur on differences in play from Virginia compared to the last meeting
“I’m not sure there were too many differences. Their team has found its shape and understands how to play. In the beginning of the season, we all try to figure out what will work for the season. I imagine that Virginia has found the group to get them going. I thought they were very strong and focused and difficult to break down. We didn’t have many good chances in the first half.”