The Virginia men's soccer season produced its share of doubt this fall, but it ended with clarity today before 3,510 fans at Klockner Stadium.
UCLA claimed a 2-0 victory over the Cavaliers in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal, and afterward, this much was certain: The Bruins should have been among the eight seeds in the field of 32, and the Cavaliers have enough young talent to keep looking forward to national success.
The Bruins (19-2) won by coming out strong, weathering a flurry of Virginia scoring chances in the middle of the first half, then dominating in the second half. Rangy forward Sasha Victorine and defender Ryan Lee scored, and UCLA goalkeeper Nick Rimando made three key saves--one on a penalty kick by Steve Totten.
Virginia (14-9-1) closed the 1990s with four national titles and two other final four appearances. UCLA will make its fourth semifinal appearance of the '90s next week, facing the winner of Sunday's Indiana-Penn State game on Friday in Charlotte. The Bruins have won two NCAA championships in the decade, in 1990 and 1997, and three overall.
"That's the most talented team left in the field," Virginia Coach George Gelnovatch said of UCLA. "Not only are they talented, but they're experienced."
The Bruins start three forwards, and they immediately applied pressure to Virginia's defenders. In the ninth minute, the pressure paid off with a turnover in Virginia's end. UCLA forward Shea Travis corralled the ball, took it--and a defender--to the right edge of the penalty area and sent the ball into the middle. Victorine, a national player of the year hopeful, shot from about 14 yards and scored his 12th goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Virginia forward Ryan Gibbs ran onto a long ball on the right edge of the penalty area, and Rimando misplayed the ball, nearly giving Gibbs a shot at an open net. But the goalkeeper reached out and tripped Gibbs before he could shoot, conceding a penalty kick. Totten struck it hard and to his right, but Rimando had guessed he would shoot in that direction and made a diving save.
"That was two tough breaks right in a row," Virginia freshman playmaker Kyle Martino said. "It was kind of hard to stay on after that, but I think we did a pretty good job."
Virginia did continue to create scoring chances, perhaps the best coming when midfielder Ryan Trout volleyed Kenny Arena's cross from the top of the penalty area in the 20th minute. The ball would have ducked under the crossbar, but Rimando parried it over the top. Rimando also dived to stop Martino's 20-yard free kick that found a gap in UCLA's defensive wall in the 39th minute.
The second half belonged to the Bruins. They outshot the Cavaliers 10-1 and got their second goal in the 78th minute, when Lee collided with goalkeeper David Comfort when both sprang toward a long, high pass. Comfort touched the ball, but was knocked unconscious briefly; Lee was able to collect the rebound and tap it into the net.
UCLA spent the entire season ranked in Soccer America magazine's top five, but a weak schedule hurt it in the tournament seeding process. Asked about the snub, Gelnovatch said: "That's probably not right."