A stingy defense that bent but didn't break all season long was the difference for the Virginia Cavaliers all season. Their tight defense held off a potent Akron attack to win the NCAA National Championship over the Zips in penalty kicks.
As Steven Goff of the Washington Post reported, Virginia coach George Gelnovatch met the expectations that were set when Bruce Arena led UVA to 4-straight titles in the 90's.
It was the sixth crown in 21 seasons for Virginia and the first for Coach George Gelnovatch, who had fallen short in two previous final four appearances since succeeding Bruce Arena in 1996.
"I knew it would come," Gelnovatch said. "I was hell-bent on making sure."
Gelnovatch, a former Virginia star, had been Arena's assistant for five titles between 1989 and '94 and had maintained the program's excellence with four ACC titles and annual trips to the national tournament. The only prize eluding him was the NCAA trophy.
Comparing this accomplishment to the championships won as an assistant, he said: "When you are the head coach, it's your baby. It's a lot more powerful."
In winning the title, the Cavaliers (19-3-3) registered their 12th shutout in 13 matches (17th overall) and stretched their unbeaten streak to 16. They handed the top-seeded Zips (23-1-1) their first setback and became the third consecutive ACC team to claim the championship.
"Virginia has such a rich tradition, and for us to add another star to the crest [on the uniform], it will be there forever," senior midfielder Jonathan Villanueva said.Watching Akron defeat UNC in penalty kicks on Friday night, the Virginia coaching staff studied the Zips shooters in the event it came down to soccer's version of Russian Roulette.
From the sideline, goalkeepers coach Mike McGinty signaled Restrepo with a green mesh shirt, a reminder of which direction the Akron player had shot against the Tar Heels.