They will mix it up at WakeMed Soccer Park at 6 p.m. — the Cavaliers (21-1-1) aiming for a third title in 10 years and eighth overall and the Hoyas (19-1-3) seeking their first trophy in their second attempt after operating for decades in the long shadows of Virginia and Maryland, which has won three championships since 2005.
“We are like the kid brother pulling on the bottom of their jerseys,” Georgetown Coach Brian Wiese said. “Hey, we want to play, too! That is the fun thing about our area. It has such great programs to measure yourself. We’re trying to crash the party.”
For both finalists, it has been quite the party for 3½ months. The Hoyas have not lost since Sept. 24; the Cavaliers have enjoyed two 10-game winning streaks.
They have combined to post 28 shutouts, concede 21 goals and build a plus-77 goal differential. In the semifinals, Georgetown took a 2-0 result from Stanford, which was making its fourth College Cup appearance in five years and seeking its fourth championship in that span, and Virginia held off ACC rival Wake Forest, 2-1.
“Brian has been knocking on the door for a little while,” said Cavaliers Coach George Gelnovatch, who is in his 24th season. “They’ve had good teams and been a little unlucky here and there. I don’t think it’s any surprise or shock they are here.”
While the Cavaliers are appearing in the Final Four for the 13th time, the Hoyas are enjoying their first visit since they lost in the 2012 final to Indiana. Since then, postseason disappointment included a 2014 quarterfinal defeat to Virginia on penalty kicks after the visiting Cavaliers scored a 90th-minute equalizer.
The teams do not typically face one another in the regular season but have met during the spring exhibition season and in the preseason regularly. This past spring, Virginia rolled to a 3-0 victory.
Gelnovatch said 95 percent of the film session Saturday was from the spring game, the rest from Georgetown’s semifinal.
Unlike the spring encounter, this meeting carries enormous consequences. With just one day to recuperate and plan for the final, the teams were scrambling Saturday. Amid the preparations, 15 Virginia players were taking exams in two shifts at the hotel. Many had to hit the books upon their return from the stadium late Friday night.
Nearby, the Georgetown players voluntarily dropped off their phones in a coaches’ suite after the match to avoid distractions and get proper sleep.
The silenced phones were lined up on a table and, according to Wiese, lit up “like a Christmas tree all night” as friends and fellow students sent congratulatory messages.
With their phones returned, the Hoyas gathered for a film session in the morning in a conference room with stacks of Chipotle packaging and a large box of Tastykakes, the Philadelphia-based treat. It seems the eighth-grade son of a Georgetown alum who lives in the Philadelphia area is a passionate fan, and so to reward and inspire the players, the family arranges for regular shipments, no matter when the team is playing.
“Now it’s a superstition,” Wiese said.
At least two buses of Georgetown supporters are expected to attend Sunday and many others on their own. Dozens of students traveled to and from the Raleigh area Friday, returned home for the basketball game against Syracuse on Saturday, then planned for the 4½-hour drive to the final.
Georgetown teams have won only two NCAA championships: men’s basketball in 1984 and women’s cross-country in 2011.
Virginia has already won two this year: men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse. The men’s soccer team would like to stay on a five-year pattern, having hoisted the trophy in 2009 and 2014, both in Cary.
“To go along with all the other sports, it would be a big honor to win the national championship,” defender Daniel Steedman said. “It just shows how good a school U-Va. is athletic-wise, if we can do it.”
For the Hoyas to do it, they will have to contain Daryl Dike, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound striker who packages strength and skill in menacing opponents. He scored twice in the first half Friday and drew two penalty kicks in the quarterfinal against SMU on Dec. 6.
“Dealing with Dike is going to be a problem,” Hoyas midfielder Sean Zawadzki said. “His impact is big-time, If we are able to control him and play the way we want, we’ve got a good shot.”
A good shot to join Maryland, Navy, Howard and particularly Virginia as champions from the Washington area.
“Virginia is like the Evil Empire,” Wiese said. “They might as well be wearing Darth Vader masks. Not because they are bad guys but because they’ve been so good. They are not only the regional benchmark but the national benchmark. Can you match what they are doing?”
College Cup final
Where: WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
Records: Hoyas 19-1-3, Cavaliers 21-1-1.