The Virginia men’s soccer team believes its performances this fall outweigh its record.
Despite quality performances with plenty of new faces and underclassmen in the lineup, the Cavaliers entered Friday’s match against Syracuse at 1-2-1 on the season with all four of their games going to overtime.
The Cavaliers had lost heartbreakers to Pittsburgh and Notre Dame in their previous two contests.
They avoided that fate Friday, taking care of the Orange 1-0 in regulation to improve to 2-2-1 on the season.
“That was a pretty big thing for this young group to secure that win as opposed to at Notre Dame and the Pitt game as well, so we’re growing,” head coach George Gelnovatch said.
UVa’s goal came off the foot of Andreas Ueland, who buried the ball in the back of the net in the 71st minute on a penalty kick opportunity.
After a brief discussion and outcry from Virginia following a Syracuse hand ball, the refs awarded the Cavaliers a penalty kick. The Orange players disputed the call, but the Wahoos earned the PK.
Ueland took the kick and delivered the goods.
“I thought it was my turn to step up,” Ueland said.
He scored a somewhat jerky goal, nearly stopping his forward momentum completely as he strode toward the ball. The hesitation move resulted in a low shot that ricocheted off the left post and into the net.
“He’s our captain, he’s our leader, both physically and, I think, emotionally with our team,” Gelnovatch said. “When we got the penalty, he stepped right up. He wanted it, put it in his hands and was very sure about it.”
For a team with plenty of youngsters, the sophomore has developed into one of the team’s key leaders. He played meaningful minutes on last year’s squad, and he possesses the potential to play professionally in future years.
The Cavaliers rely on him as a vocal leader and top contributor defensively.
He’s not the only talented youngster making meaningful contributors for Gelnovatch’s squad, though.
Alex Rando, a redshirt freshman transfer from Stanford, started at Notre Dame last Saturday and again Friday against Syracuse in place of Colin Shutler. UVa’s usual starter is a bit banged up, so Rando has earned time as Shutler recovers from injury.
“They played great today,” Rando said of his defense. “Defending in the box, through balls, balls lofted in, everything was clean today. I’m really proud of them.”
With Rando in goal and the defense performing well, Virginia finished the win with its first clean sheet of the season.
Ueland credited a complete team performance for the shutout.
That included quality efforts from junior Bret Halsey and sophomore Philip Horton. The duo helped create a few quality looks for the Wahoos.
Senior Irazoke Donasiyano remained an important piece of UVa’s puzzle, as he has all season. Sophomore Kevin Ogudugu served as one of the underclassmen contributors, nearly icing in the game in the final few minutes with a beautiful shot attempt that slid just wide.
Virginia players and coaches like the young team, and while the Cavaliers aren’t quite as crisp as they were at times last fall, the team never quits and typically generates a handful of quality scoring looks per game.
If the Cavaliers convert a few more of those good looks and improve their defensive consistency, they’ll be a force in the ACC Tournament, which begins on Nov. 15. The team’s Nov. 6 match against Virginia Tech is their last chance to clean up mistakes before the conference tournament.
Gelnovatch feels his team grows each match, and Friday represented more of the same. The Cavaliers played one of their better defensive games of the fall, picking up a gritty win in the process.
For a team breaking in newcomers, every milestone matters.
“Finally, we got our shutout,” Ueland said.
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