Behind two goals from junior midfielder Ryan Trout and a scrappy defense in front of freshman goalkeeper David Comfort, Virginia held off Wake Forest in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal tonight, 2-1, before 4,639 at Spry Stadium.
After the worst ACC regular season in school history, the Cavaliers have found their rhythm here. Virginia (12-7-1) finished seventh out of seven teams, recording just one win and one tie in six ACC matches.
Now, with wins over second-seeded Maryland and the third-seeded Demon Deacons (12-2-5), the Cavaliers have advanced to a familiar position, the ACC tournament final. Virginia has missed reaching the final only once since 1990, in 1998.
As they did in Thursday's semifinal win over Maryland, the Cavaliers took an early lead. Comfort's long clearance bounced through the Wake Forest defense, allowing Trout to cut in from the right and take the ball in stride.
He cruised into the penalty area unmarked and pounded the ball past goalkeeper Sean Conner only 1 minute 40 seconds into the match. Trout scored just over four minutes into the game against Maryland.
In the 32nd minute, the Cavaliers went ahead 2-0 as freshman defensive midfielder Kenny Arena (Oakton) sent Trout flying down the right flank again with a long pass from midfield. The junior cut toward the goal and scored his third goal of the tournament by firing through Conner's legs.
"We did ourselves a favor by getting two early goals," said Cavs Coach George Gelnovatch.
Virginia advances to face top seed Duke in the final. The second-ranked Blue Devils (14-0-3) beat arch rival North Carolina, 4-0, in tonight's first semifinal. Duke senior forward Troy Garner scored two goals within four minutes early in the second half and then set up two more by freshman midfielder Donald McIntosh. Duke has never won the ACC tournament.
* BIG EAST: Georgetown advanced to the tournament championship with a 2-0 victory over top-seeded Rutgers in Storrs, Conn. Senior midfielder Matt Incekara led the fifth-seeded Hoyas (11-8-1) with a goal and an assist. The Hoyas will play Connecticut (15-4) in the championship Sunday at noon. The second-seeded Huskies defeated Syracuse, 1-0.