Virginia's men's soccer team, which struggled through a losing season last year while learning a new system, received an NCAA postseason bid yesterday.
The Cavaliers (10-5-2) will play at home against West Virginia (10-4) in a South Atlantic Region game Sunday at 1 p.m. The winner will play the champion from the four-team South Region tournament next week. Clemson is favored. The semifinals and finals are scheduled Dec. 5-6 at Stanford.
Coaches and other persons associated with soccer in the region agreed there were no exceptional teams this year. Virginia was picked because of its tough schedule -- four of its losses were to teams in the top 20. It was felt that West Virginia, passed over last year because it allegedly played too many weak teams, had improved its schedule considerably. There was some surprise that George Washington (12-5), which had defeated West Virginia in Morgantown, was not selected.
"I felt we had the ability to do well this year," said Bruce Arena, in his fourth year at Virginia. "But our conference is very strong now. It's now like basketball: you can have an outstanding team and still have a losing record."
The Cavaliers are led by Peter Polonsky, who has 11 goals and one assist. Brian Vernon, a freshman forward from Annandale, is the second-leading scorer with eight goals and three assists. Voga Wallace, a sophomore midfielder from Blair, has two goals and five assists.
West Virginia has one of the leading goalies in the country in Jon Capon, a senior from Woodward. Capon, the goalkeeper on the U.S. team in the Maccabiah games this summer, yielded 15 goals in 14 games.
Nationally, there were few surprises among the 20 teams selected. Defending champion San Francisco, Indiana, St. Louis, Columbia, Connecticut, Philadelphia Textile, Penn State, Clemson and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville all received bids.