Restrepo, Bates Propel Hoos To Win
Nov 22, 2009
Diego Restrepo set a new UVa record for consecutive scoreless minutes in goal..
Virginia goalkeeper Diego Restrepo got his record against Bucknell. But, don't be fooled by the 5-0 score - it did not come easily.
Coming into the Cavaliers' second-round NCAA Tournament game against the Bison, Restrepo needed 53:51 of game time to reach 891 minutes and 25 seconds straight without a goal, the single-season record set by world-renowned goalkeeper Tony Meola in 1988. But, reaching that mark was no cakewalk, as the margin of victory did not reflect a dominating Cavalier performance - it was a case of Restrepo making big saves, and Virginia efficiently finishing its chances. The end result was a five-goal output to set a new single-game high for the season, the first career hat trick for freshman forward Will Bates and the Cavaliers' ninth consecutive shutout.
"I don't think it's a 5-0 game if you play it again, to be honest with you," Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said.
Meola's record, Restrepo said, was not on his mind as he prepared for Sunday's game, though he admitted knowing that he needed "50-something" minutes without a goal to reach the mark. The gravity of taking a record once owned by one of the best goalkeepers the U.S. has ever seen, though, was fully appreciated by Restrepo, a Venezuelan native.
"I remember as a kid, wanting to be Tony Meola," Restrepo said. "It was a great honor to go above him. I'm happy I did that, but it's all teamwork, it's all because of the team in front of me. I'm happy to be here."
The first 20 minutes featured outstanding chances for both teams, and Virginia emerged from that span with the advantage that keyed the rest of the match. The first four minutes were a whirlwind themselves - UVa got the first crack at an early goal in the third minute, as Tony Tchani blasted a low shot to the far post from just outside the six-yard box, but Bucknell keeper Tommy Caso made a brilliant diving save. Less than two minutes later, the Bison tore down the field on a counter attack, setting up midfielder Ryan Sappington at the top of the box. This time it was Restrepo's turn to make a marvelous diving save, deflecting the shot wide of the near post.
While an overmatched opponent often takes the conservative approach of sitting in its own half of the field and playing defensively, Bucknell clearly had other plans. The Bison's willingness to attack the Cavaliers early took Gelnovatch off guard.
"Their keeper made a great save on Tony, and right after that, they had a really good chance that Diego makes a pretty good save on," Gelnovatch said. At that point, for me, I was surprised that they were going toe-to-toe with us, as opposed to being a little bit more dropped off, and defensive."
"Our game plan was, we're not going to sit back," Bucknell coach Brendan Nash said. "I know some teams will sit back against a team that you know is better than you, but we've never done that before. So our thing was, if we can try and make them play a little bit more direct, force them to play direct, but if they start possessing, then we have to retreat a little bit."
But, Bucknell later "paid the price" for its aggression, Gelnovatch said. As Bucknell unhesitatingly sent numbers forward, Virginia applied consistent pressure on the Bison back four. Tchani forced two give-aways in this manner near Bucknell's goal, and both times, Tchani went on to assist a Cavalier goal in the blink of an eye.
"We would have thought they would have said, 'Let Bucknell have the ball on their half of the field at times,'" Nash said. "They got us out of our comfort zone."
First, in the eighth minute, Tchani simply out-muscled a defender to win possession deep in the heart of the Bison's defensive third of the field. The nearby Bates took off right away, and Tchani hit Bates in stride with a deft through ball to the top of the box. With Caso coming at Bates full-steam, Bates needed only touch the ball past the charging keeper, giving Virginia a quick 1-0 lead.
Tchani again set up a Cavalier goal after sticking a Bucknell defender in the 28th minute. After winning the ball just outside the box to the left of goal, Tchani placed a firm ball on the ground to the foot of defender Hunter Jumper at the top of the box. Jumper faked a shot, took a touch inside, and delivered a low shot across his body to the near post to give the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead and Jumper's first goal of the season.
"We wanted to make sure they were as uncomfortable as they possibly could be - we wanted to pressure them, we wanted to make it really tough for them to get out of their half," Gelnovatch said. "The other part of it is that I don't think they've seen that kind of pressure, and athleticism, and people getting around the ball, and I don't think they've had to pay the price for turning the ball over. Every time we picked it off - the first two times, bang-bang, we scored twice."
All the while, though, Bucknell, continued to test Restrepo, and Restrepo continued to answer. In the 14th minute, Bucknell sent a cross to the back post, which found the head of a Bison forward at the top of the six. The header sent the ball toward the bottom-side of the cross bar, but Restrepo got a hand to it, going to the ground as he directed it high above the mouth of the goal. With the ball hanging in the air over the six, however, Restrepo regained his footing and batted the ball out of the six before Virginia ultimately cleared the ball out of danger.
The early saves were nothing new to Gelnovatch, who noted that Restrepo's ability to make one or two big saves per game has been a large part of the difference during the Cavaliers' 11-game unbeaten streak. Restrepo, though, said the secret to Virginia's defense of late has been communication.
"We just communicate so well with each other," Restrepo said. "Everybody knows what they're going to do, their next move, and everybody just stays compact as a unit."
In the 10 minutes following the Cavaliers' second goal, Virginia took control for good. After Cavalier defender Shawn Barry was taken down in the corner of the box for a penalty kick, Tchani reached four points on the day with his strike of the penalty to the lower right corner. Less than seven minutes later, Bates earned his second goal of the half - after his first shot was blocked from just outside the six, he recovered, held off a defender, turned and fired low to the back post to make the score 4-0.
With the Cavaliers out to a four-goal advantage, Gelnovatch elected to then remove Tchani, who had already been given a yellow card for jawing at the referee in the 25th minute. Another yellow card - and therefore, an ejection - in the same game would have resulted in a one-game suspension for Tchani, and Gelnovatch said he did not want to risk it.
"The way that game was going - before it became three or four to nothing - there was lots of little stuff going on, like grabbing, and yelling, and this and that, and he was on the verge, of potentially getting [another card]," Gelnovatch said. "With the score being four or five nothing, the other team doesn't care if they get a yellow card or something happens, so it just made sense to get him off the field."
With Virginia in a commanding lead, there was little else for the Hoos to do other then keep playing a solid brand of soccer and collect individual accolades in the process. Bates did the honors first, earning a hat trick by chipping Caso on a break-away in the 49th minute. It was Bates' first college hat trick, and his fourth consecutive goal for Virginia, as he also scored the game-winner in the ACC Championship victory against N.C. State a week earlier. Bates' three goals Sunday gave the freshman 11 goals on the season.
Teammates celebrate with Will Bates after he scored his first of three goals on the day.
"My mindset coming into today's game was the same as always," Bates said. "As a forward, I'm supposed to score goals, so that's what I'm trying to do."
Then, it was Restrepo's time to shine. As 36:09 on the clock turned to 36:08, there was no reaction from the crowd, nor an announcement from the P.A. announcer, nor indeed did Restrepo even realize that he had just broken Meola's scoreless minutes record. But as the clock continued to wind down and a goose egg kept flashing on the scoreboard, Restrepo - who has not been scored on since Oct. 17 at Virginia Tech - eventually realized that the record was his.
"When it was 20 minutes left in the game, I was like, 'I think I got it,'" Restrepo said. "I was a little excited."
As time ticked on, so did the margin of Restrepo's record over his idol Meola, and Restrepo continued to lengthen it with several dazzling saves. The most spectacular save occurred late in the second half - a strike from the left of goal appeared to be headed to the upper corner on the back post, but Restrepo exploded up into a sprawling dive and redirected the ball wide with his top hand.
"That save is what Diego's been giving us in big games where it's 0-0, or 1-1, or we're winning 1-0," Gelnovatch said. "He makes that kind of save - maybe one a game - to keep us in a game. Now this game, it was over by that time, but that's the kind of save we've been getting from Diego all year in big games."
The Cavaliers return to Klockner Stadium next Sunday to take on Portland, who pulled off a 2-1 victory to upset No. 15 N.C. State. Virginia already defeated the Pilots in the Hoos' first game of the season, a 3-0 victory in a season-opening tournament in Portland. Like this one, Gelnovatch said the match was much closer than indicated by the score.
Virginia, though, is a very different team than it was three months ago. With Restrepo as the rock for a strong Cavalier backline, and a legitimate weapon in Bates joining forces with Tchani in the attack, the Hoos have already won the ACC Championship. The team's sights are now on a National Championship, which seems like a much more realistic goal than it did before Virginia's 11-game unbeaten streak, and before Restrepo turned into a shutout machine.
"If you have those components of, as like today, executing our chances, and at the same time, when it's time to grind, you grind, and when you need one big save you have a goalkeeper that can make that save, those are pretty good components for a good team," Gelnovatch said.
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