Cavaliers Head To Title Game With OT Win
Dec 12, 2009
Jordan Evans celebrates with fans after the Hoos won in the semifinals of the College Cup. (Photo courtesy of Jim Campbell)
CARY, N.C. - In a game dominated by missed opportunities, the Virginia men's soccer team capitalized on the one that mattered most, scoring less than three minutes into overtime to defeat Wake Forest 2-1 and clinch a spot in the Finals of the College Cup on Sunday.
The decisive play started on Virginia's end of the field. As a group of Wake forwards gathered at the top of the goal box, several UVa players in white jerseys bunched around them. The ball squirted just outside the goal box, and a high velocity kick from a Wake player met the chest of Virginia midfielder Ross LaBauex. As the thud of the impact echoed through the crowd, Cavalier midfielder Jonathan Villanueva gathered the ball, made a move past one defender, then sent the ball soaring ahead to substitute forward Brian Ownby, who had found his way around Wake Forest freshman defender Anthony Arena. Ownby played the ball slightly ahead and to his right before sending a shot against his body back into the left corner of the goal, past the outstretched arms of Demon Deacon goalie Akira Fitzgerald.
It was Villanueva's second credited assist of the game, the first coming off of a rebounded shot. "I basically kicked it as hard as I can, as far as I can," Villanueva said. "I knew that he's faster than anybody else that I know so I figured he'd catch up to it wherever it went."
The Cavaliers struggled to create scoring opportunities in the first half. Despite the fact that they took as many shots as Wake Forest did, many were off of one-on-one situations, and resulted in wildly inaccurate balls. Virginia got far more offensive players into the goalie box in the second half. Ownby's presence increased the pace and urgency of the Virginia attack even though he has been struggling with a sports hernia.
"We had had him in for about 27 minutes" Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said of Ownby's status. "And we knew his threshold was about 30 minutes."
Timing when to put Ownby in paid off greatly for the Cavaliers, as they were able to hold off Wake Forest's early pressure and take advantage of what had perhaps become a more relaxed Demon Deacon defense early in the first overtime.
Wake Forest's aggressiveness was evident from the start as they created several scoring opportunities in the first half, one of which bounced off the crossbar and back in play before the rebound shot was sent wide and out of bounds. Another shot hit the side of the goal. The second half yielded similar results. With 23 minutes remaining and Wake down by a goal, the offense played the ball to the middle of the field, just above the goalie box. The UVa defense again swarmed around the ball, and successfully blocked two Deacon shots before the ball bounced out to senior midfielder Austin da Luz, who took a hard shot, just slightly over the outstretched hand of Diego Restrepo and grazed the Virginia crossbar before sailing harmlessly into the crowd.
Wake Forest coach Jay Vidovich acknowledged that Wake wanted to attack Virginia early, but gave a lot of credit to the Wahoo defense.
"They play defense as a group, as a team, and they play out in space." Vidovich said. "It was something that we were warned about and that we knew about the whole time."
Wake Forest did manage to tie the game up with 20 minutes remaining in regulation, thanks to some nifty dribbling by junior Corben Bone.
"It was a bad corner, it kind of came out," said Bone. "So I just kind of crept out on the left wing, and kept myself onside. I honestly took kind of a bad touch, put it a little too far, and I couldn't quite cross it, so I toed it toward the goal and it went in."
With a home state crowd and a newly tied game, much of the momentum seemed to be on Wake Forest's side. "The momentum I thought was Wake Forest's most of the time," Vidovich said. "I thought we owned the game. If you look at the quality chances and opportunities in the game, it's clearly Wake Forest. We created quality chances, but we didn't put them away."
Villanueva agreed that the Deacons were the aggressors. Especially during the first half, the game was being played on Virginia's defensive end. Considering that UVa had not allowed a goal in 11 games, it may not have been such a disadvantage.
Hunter Jumper and the Cavalier defense put together another solid game. (Photo courtesy of Jim Campbell)
"Throughout the season we've had our moments when we've kind of been on the back foot," said Villanueva. "We definitely had been there before so it's same old, same old, for us. We knew the game would eventually slow down, we'd find our chances."
The previous two meetings between Wake and UVa had ended in a 1-0 victory for UVa and a win by Virginia in the ACC Tournament Semifinals, 6-5 on penalty kicks. Considering the close outcomes from previous match-ups, there was reason for anxiety going into the overtime with so much on the line. But the Hoos capitalized on the only scoring opportunity it had during overtime, and took plenty of joy in celebrating their sudden victory win.
Gelnovatch credits the success to the attitude that his players showed after giving up their first goal in almost two months, against a hostile crowd and with a National Championship berth on the line.
"I thought our demeanor and our resolve to start the overtime right from the start, right from the kickoff, I thought that we believed we were going to win that game," Gelnovatch said. "Whether it was overtime, whether it was PKs, it didn't matter. That's how we've been all season."
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