One by one, they have returned.
Jeff Agoos's leg is much better. John Maessner's broken foot has healed completely. Mike Huwiler's abdominal muscle is fine. And for the first time during this unconventional season, the bumped and bruised University of Virginia soccer team is in good physical condition.
It is a good thing too because the 10th-ranked Cavaliers (12-5-6) play the most explosive team in the country, fourth-ranked North Carolina State (17-4), today at 1 in an NCAA quarterfinal match in Raleigh, N.C.
In other games: Eighth-ranked Dartmouth (14-1-2) plays at third-ranked Rutgers (18-2-2), ninth-ranked Indiana (16-3-2) visits No. 1 Evansville (23-0-2), and second-ranked UCLA (16-1-4) hosts No. 17 Southern Methodist (18-3-1).
Virginia, the defending NCAA co-champion, is the underdog against a North Carolina State team that has won six straight games, is 11-1 at home and is averaging 3.4 goals per game. In two earlier meetings, the Cavaliers were 3-2 overtime winners and the Wolfpack took a 2-1 decision in the ACC tournament final.
Virginia averages 1.8 goals per game and allows less than one. Freshman goalkeeper Jeff Causey has nine shutout victories and sophomore Ben Crawley has a team-high eight goals.
The Wolfpack has scored three goals or more in 16 games but has registered only one shutout in the last 12 (three total). Alex Sanchez's nine goals would lead Virginia, but he is fifth at N.C. State behind ACC player of the year Henry Gutierrez (16 goals, eight assists), Roy Lassiter (13, 9), Dario Brose (11, 15) and Tom Tanner (12, 6).
"I think we'll go out and play the same way we did the last two against them," Crawley said. "The last half of the second game everyone just died. They're a great team with five or six great players up front. If we let down at all, they're going to get at us. We have to keep up our spirit for 90 minutes."
The return of Agoos, a three-time all-American who missed tournament victories over Richmond and North Carolina with a leg injury, further strengthens a stable midfield. Huwiler, who played 12 minutes in last week's 3-1 victory over North Carolina, gives Virginia Coach Bruce Arena a scoring option off the bench.
However, the return of Maessner (one goal, four assists) after a 2 1/2-month absence is the key to Virginia's chances. Until he broke his left foot against Indiana, the Cavaliers had scored 10 goals in five games. Discounting an 8-0 victory over Virginia Commonwealth in the first game without him, they since have scored 24 goals in 17 games.
"It's nice to have a player of John's caliber," Arena said. "It should give us a tremendous boost. However, in my mind North Carolina State has five John Maessners."