A few minutes after Virginia’s 2-0 victory over defending champion Maryland in a men’s soccer match Monday at Audi Field, Cavaliers Coach George Gelnovatch provided perspective for his happy players.
“Obviously it’s a great win,” said Gelnovatch, a two-time NCAA champion and Virginia’s only coach in almost a quarter-century. “But it’s the second game of the season. I reminded our team of that.”
The No. 12 Cavaliers (2-0-0) parlayed a convincing first half into a deserved victory in the 82nd meeting between two of college soccer’s most decorated programs. Nathaniel Crofts and Daryl Dike scored two minutes apart as the former ACC rivals met at D.C. United’s stadium for the second consecutive Labor Day.
Maryland (1-1-0) entered atop the coaches’ preseason poll, but those early rankings are based almost entirely on last year’s finish. In reality, the Terrapins took a major roster hit after last season and, as Coach Sasho Cirovski has preached, they are “a work in progress.”
Two non-seniors left for MLS (D.C. defender Donovan Pines and Minnesota goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair), three incoming freshmen signed MLS homegrown contracts before enrolling, and senior midfielder Paul Bin suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago.
Also, starting midfielder William James Herve is out with a hamstring injury.
Even with several inexperienced players, Cirovski said he was “very disappointed in our team’s performance. We didn’t match their intensity or their quality. This team has to learn to become the hunter again.”
The Terrapins struggled to keep pace in the first half with the seasoned Cavaliers. Virginia goalkeeper Colin Shutler endured only mild pressure and a few lame insults from Maryland students among the 1,884 spectators.
The Cavaliers, seeking a 39th consecutive NCAA tournament berth, went ahead in the 21st minute when Daniel Steedman’s shot deflected to Crofts, whose one-time blast caromed off a defender and into the roof of the net.
It ended Maryland’s shutout streak at 611 minutes, dating from the Big Ten tournament last November.
Two minutes later, a Maryland giveaway allowed Crofts to supply Dike, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound forward, who placed a well-struck shot from the top of the box into the top right corner of the net.
“They are the reigning national champions,” Crofts said, “and we wanted to try to rattle them a little.”
The Terrapins began to find their way in the second half, but Shutler and his defense did not budge.
Although it’s early, Gelnovatch said he likes the look of his group.
“We have sneakily become a veteran team,” he said. “It’s hard for me to do that: Guys take off [to the pros] when they get pretty good. Now we have five guys in that lineup who are very good players but also have some experience. … It’s very early, but a lot of good signs.”
The Cavaliers will host High Point on Saturday, then launch their ACC campaign at No. 10 Duke on Sept. 13. The Terrapins will visit UCLA on Friday before hosting third-ranked Akron on Sept. 13 in a rematch of last year’s NCAA final.
For Maryland, slow starts are nothing new. Last year, the Terps did not score until their fifth match.
“This,” Cirovski said, “will make us stronger. ”
· GEORGETOWN 3, TEMPLE 0: Sean Zawadzki and Dylan Nealis scored 14 minutes apart in the first half, both assisted by Notre Dame transfer Paul Rothrock, as the No. 13 Hoyas (2-0-0) recorded three goals for the second straight match in defeating the visiting Owls (0-2-0).
Dante Polvara scored from 25 yards early in the second half, his second goal of the season for Georgetown, which will visit No. 25 UC Irvine and UCLA this weekend. Freshman Tomas Romero made five saves for his first shutout.