CHARLOTTESVILLE, NOV. 15 -- Virginia Coach Bruce Arena was walking off the Scott Stadium turf today after his team's NCAA soccer tournament game when a fan yelled, "Way to get over the hump, coach!"
Arena smiled and remarked, "What hump?"
After being upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament the previous two years, the third-ranked Cavaliers advanced to the South Atlantic Region final with a 2-0 victory over No. 13 George Mason before 2,488 fans.
Virginia (17-2-2 overall) will play No. 12 Loyola, a 1-0 winner in Baltimore today over William and Mary, next weekend at a time and location to be announced Monday.
Seniors Jay Del Carmen and Scott Platenberg each had a goal and an assist to lead the Cavaliers to their first tournament win since 1984.
In 1985, George Mason upset Virginia, 1-0, in the first round. Last year, the top-ranked Cavaliers were beaten by Loyola, 1-0, in Charlottesville.
"This team has an identity of its own. It's nothing like last year's team," Arena said. "Nobody said we would be any good this year. But we told them not to worry about it and just go out and play aggressively."
Not only were they aggressive, the Cavaliers controlled the game in the second half, with many more scoring chances than the Patriots (13-5-3). Virginia had more shots on goal (16-12) and corner kicks (6-2).
Although he had neither a goal nor an assist, Virginia midfielder John Harkes was impressive, setting up both scoring rallies. The Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year was ill last week, lost seven pounds, and didn't play at full strength today.
With 15:52 left in the first half, Harkes found Platenberg, a senior from West Springfield High School, alone on the right wing. Platenberg carried the ball to the end line, hesitated, then found Del Carmen charging from the top of the penalty box. Del Carmen's blast from 10 yards easily beat Patriots goalkeeper Martin Dunphy for his second goal of the season.
"I had a lot of time to assess what was around me," Platenberg said. "John made a call for the ball, but Jay yelled louder."
At 57:32, Harkes flicked a pass across the penalty box to Del Carmen 10 yards out on the left side. Del Carmen made a soft back pass to Platenberg who scored his second goal of the season on a low shot to the far right corner.
"We knew we had to shut down Harkes, but we had to shut down their other players," Patriots fullback Bob Lilley said. "We knew Platenberg was a good player, but it wasn't feasible to mark every player."
The Patriots' best chance came with 17:27 left, but Virginia goalkeeper Bob Willen made a fine, lunging save on Ray Elsesser's clear shot from 15 yards. Mason made a few runs into Virginia territory, but couldn't get any solid shots from close range.
"Virginia had the better of the play, but they weren't a team we were in awe of. The game was there to be won," Patriots Coach Gordon Bradley said.
Virginia's two goals were its first from the field in tournament play since 1983. In 1984, the Cavaliers needed a shootout to eliminate American. They were shut out the last two years.
The Patriots, who had three straight shutouts coming into today's game, were constantly trying to stop Virginia's rallies. All-America Sam Sumo had no scoring chances in the first half and didn't play in the final 45 minutes.
Willen made three saves for his 11th shutout of the season and 23rd for his career.
Loyola 1, William and Mary 0:
In Baltimore, Joe Koziol scored with 13:01 left in regulation to decide the other South Atlantic semifinal. Loyola advances with a 16-3-2 record; William and Mary ends 14-5-2.
South Carolina 1, N.C. State 0:
In a South Region elimination in Columbia, S.C., Scott Cook lofted a pass from Jeff Love over goalkeeper Kris Peat with 2:36 left in the second overtime. Cook is a senior forward from Bethesda.