Nov. 20, 2015

By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE — There are scenarios in which the University of Virginia men’s soccer team would play again at Klöckner Stadium this season. For that to be possible, though, the unseeded Cavaliers must keep winning in the NCAA tournament, and that will require a victory over a familiar foe this weekend.

At 5 p.m. Sunday, Virginia (10-4-3) meets former ACC rival Maryland (10-5-5) in a second-round game at Ludwig Field in College Park. The winner will advance to face No. 7 seed Notre Dame or Tulsa in the round of 16.

The Big Ten champion Terrapins, seeded No. 10 in the 48-team NCAA tourney, received a first-round bye. The defending NCAA champion Cavaliers played Thursday night, and if that game turns to out have been their final appearance of the season at Klöckner, they exited on a happy note.

Redshirt junior Marcus Salandy-Defour and sophomore Jake Rozhansky — each, incidentally, from the state of Maryland — scored second-half goals to lift UVA to a 2-0 win over the Rider Broncs.

“We knew they were going to come in and give us a tough fight,” senior midfielder Todd Wharton said, “because that’s what every game in the tournament is going to be. It’s going to be a fight, no matter who you’re playing.

“But we were ready for it, and I think we got a little bit unlucky.”

Indeed, the Wahoos’ margin of victory could have, and probably should have, been much greater against Rider (14-6-1). They failed to convert a couple of good scoring opportunities in the first half, and in the 72nd minute, with the score 1-0, Wharton missed a penalty kick.

Still, the `Hoos continued to apply pressure, and in the 88th minute freshman Jean-Christophe Koffi, who’s also from Maryland, passed to Rozhansky, who eluded Rider goalkeeper Ryan Baird in the box and scored to make it 2-0.

“This was a little bit of a grind,” Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said, “and we’ve just got to get used to it.”

The Cavaliers, who are in their 20th season under Gelnovatch, came into the NCAA tournament having scored only 22 goal in 16 games. So Gelnovatch revamped his lineup. Against Rider, Salandy-Defour started at forward, senior Scott Thomsen at left back and junior Patrick Foss at right back.

The left-footed Thomsen missed most of the regular season with a sports hernia, and Gelnovatch had been using Salandy-Defour at right back to strengthen the defense, with the left-footed Foss at left back. But Salandy-Defour, the team’s fastest player, is a proven scoring threat whose presence at the attacking end, Gelnovatch hoped, would make the `Hoos more dangerous.

“It paid off,” said Gelnovatch, who has guided Virginia to two NCAA titles. “He scored a goal. And we wanted to get Scotty Thomsen on the field. He’s a good left back. I think Paddy’s right foot’s a little bit better, so we put him on the right side. Two big changes, and I think they made a difference.”

UVA had two excellent scoring chances in the first five minutes of the second half — the first by Salandy-Defour, the second by freshman forward Edward Opoku, a blur for most of his 62 minutes off the bench — but could not finish either. In the 68th minute, though, Rozhansky passed to Salandy-Defour, who pivoted and blasted a shot from about 25 yards that Baird had little chance of stopping.

The goal was Salandy-Defour’s third of the season and eighth of his UVA career, and it “was as good a goal as he’s scored since he’s been here,” Gelnovatch said.

“Goals like that,” Rozhansky said, “lift the whole team.”

Salandy-Defour, who played midfielder and forward in 2012 and ’13 before missing last season with a knee injury, was happy to be back in that role. His preferred position?

“Definitely forward,” he said, smiling. “More goals.”

Rozhansky, who has been slowed by a groin injury most of the season, played only the second half Thursday night, “but I think he definitely added something,” Gelnovatch said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell posted his seventh shutout of the season, with strong support from a back line of Thomsen, Foss, sophomore Nate Odusote and redshirt sophomore Wesley Suggs, yet another Marylander.

“It was a good performance by all those guys,” Gelnovatch said.

Rozhansky said: “We’re obviously good defensively. When we’re scoring goals, it’s going to be hard to stop us.”

Rozhansky, who’s from Takoma Park, Md., has never played at Ludwig Field. But he attended a Virginia-Maryland game there when he was a student at Montgomery Blair High School.

“I live about five minutes away from the [Maryland] campus, so I know all about it,” Rozhansky said. “That’s when Maryland was still in the ACC. I didn’t know they were switching [to the Big Ten]. That was my dream, just to play for Virginia at Maryland. So I’m really excited.”

The Cavaliers, who are in the NCAA tourney for the 35th straight season, haven’t played in College Park since Oct. 5, 2012, when the Terps prevailed 1-0. The teams haven’t clashed since Dec. 13, 2013, when Maryland edged Virginia 2-1 in the NCAA semifinals at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

At Ludwig Field, one of the most raucous venues in college soccer, the Terps are averaging 3,246 fans per game this season.

“That atmosphere is unlike anything we’ve ever seen this year,” Wharton said. “They’re going to be rowdy fans. It’s going to be packed. It’s going to be loud. Me, personally, I like those games. I like going into atmospheres like that, because it gets me a little more pumped up.

“I think we’ll just let the younger guys know what it’s going to be like, and they’ll be ready too.”

Gelnovatch said: “We know what to expect, and we’ve got a couple days to get ready, and we don’t have to fly. It’s a pretty easy trip. We know what hotel we like to stay in when we go there. It’s all good.”

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