Virginia, Maryland men's soccer again should be near the top this season

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 7:17 PM

Followers of men's college soccer in the Washington area will undoubtedly be drawn to the Oct. 29 encounter in Charlottesville featuring the past two NCAA men's champions, Virginia and Maryland.

It will come 12 days before the ACC tournament and surely influence the seedings in both the league and national tournaments.

Though that particular meeting stands out, both programs will need the two-month regular season to build their portfolios and gather steam heading into the NCAA event.

Virginia, which last fall ended 15 years of postseason shortfalls to win its sixth title, has participated in every national tournament since 1981. Maryland, the 2008 champion, has advanced 15 of the past 16 years.

Last season, the teams collided in the NCAA quarterfinals, with the Cavaliers winning, 3-0.

Both teams will open the season at home Friday night. Virginia, ranked second in the coaches' poll and third by Soccer America, will welcome Alabama-Birmingham to Klockner Stadium.

Alecko Eskandarian, a former U-Va. and D.C. United star, will raise the championship banner, the first under Coach George Gelnovatch.

Maryland, at No. 6 and No. 4 in the national rankings, gets started against No. 24/23 Michigan State.

The ACC promises to be the top conference again. Despite Maryland and Virginia's recent history and returning strengths, the league's coaches picked North Carolina to finish first.

The Terrapins and Cavaliers will feature two of the nation's premier goalkeepers. Maryland junior Zac MacMath spent his summer with the U.S. under-20 national team and trained informally with Everton in the English Premier League. Virginia senior Diego Restrepo had 16 shutouts, including 11 in a row, during the 19-3-3 campaign in 2009.

Central defenders Mike Volk and Greg Monaco return to Virginia's backline, while left back Hunter Jumper is being converted into a defensive midfielder and right back Shawn Barry left school for academic reasons and turned up in Austria.

The Cavaliers' scoring production will fall to Will Bates, Soccer America's freshman of the year in 2009 with 12 goals. This freshman class includes forward Bobby McDonnell, son of Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R).

The Terrapins' attack is led by forwards Jason Herrick and Casey Townsend (15 combined goals last fall) and midfielder Doug Rodkey, who is in his sixth year after missing the 2006 campaign and most of 2009 with foot injuries. On the backline, Ethan White joined MacMath on the U.S. under-20 squad this summer and Alex Lee returns after being hit by a car and suffering a head injury last season.

While Maryland and Virginia are at the forefront, several other area programs are seeking NCAA tournament berths. George Mason returns a strong core and welcomes a promising rookie class, which suffered a setback a few days before training camp opened when midfielder Conor Shanosky (Potomac Falls High School) signed with D.C. United.

The Patriots opened the season Wednesday with a strange 3-1 victory over George Washington at the D.C. College Cup. After conceding a penalty kick and goal 12 seconds into the match and receiving an early red card, they scored three second-half goals.

In the other D.C. tournament match, American defeated Howard, 3-0. Georgetown, which returns eight starters, opens Friday at home against Northeastern.

l WOMEN: In a season that began two weeks ago, Maryland (4-0-0) is an early surprise. The Terrapins cracked the top 10 for the first time since 2000, moving up to No. 10 in both rankings this week. Virginia, a perennial national power, is as high as No. 7 after starting with three victories and a draw.

Virginia Tech, which began as high as No. 15, has dropped eight slots after a 2-2 start. Georgetown, led by preseason all-American Ingrid Wells, has won its first four matches and sits at No. 22 in the coaches' poll.

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