UVA men’s soccer geared for another run at College Cup

By Brian Teweles

Coach George Gelnovatch (Photos: UVA Athletics)

With the current landscape of college athletics, nothing is a given. Some conferences are in, some are out, and Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on schools across the country, leaving scheduled matchups on a seemingly day-to-day basis.

The one constant, however, is that Coach George Gelnovatch and his Virginia men’s soccer team will continue to be a force, no matter their playing situation. 

Coming off a season where they were ACC champions, No. 1 overall seed, and the eventual national runner-up, the Cavaliers will be facing a new set of obstacles on their path back to the College Cup.

One such change they will face this season is the newly reworked ACC. The conference has been divided into North and South Regions, with the league tournament serving as the prize at the season’s end, due to the NCAA’s cancellation of all fall sports championships. 

Despite the changes, UVA has been picked in the Preseason ACC Coaches Poll to win the North Region, with Pitt and Virginia Tech close behind. The team was also projected fourth in the overall league ranking, with Clemson tabbed as the favorite.

With a large section of the team hailing from outside the U.S., Covid has presented another variable for international players. For freshman All-American Andreas Ueland, the situation has been especially difficult to navigate.

“For a player like me that comes from Norway, I was debating whether to come here or not… there’s been a lot of back and forth,” Ueland said. 

Ueland also was in favor of the two-semester season, mentioning that it was more similar to a pro-style schedule with games only once a week in the fall. 

The logistical difficulties have been a hinderance to the international players, as they’ve been unable to partake in almost a month’s worth of training due to travel restrictions and quarantine policies. One team member from Peru, freshman Rafael Caipo, still hadn’t been able to make it to Grounds as of Aug. 28.

Much of this appears to still be up in the air, including the possibility of a spring season that would include a national title at stake.

“I think an eight-game fall with a 10- or 12-game spring would work pretty good, with an NCAA championship game happening in May,” said Gelnovatch.

Nathaniel Crofts

As Gelnovatch heads into his 25th season as the team’s head coach, he’s receiving some help in the form of new assistant coach Adam Perron. Perron, the former top assistant and recruiting coordinator at James Madison, will try and continue the program’s success during Gelnovatch’s tenure.

After falling to Georgetown in last year’s National Championship match on penalty kicks, the Hoos (21-2-1, 6-1-1 ACC in 2019) will look to reload. They lost several key pieces, including forwards Daryl Dike and Daniel Steedman, along with midfielder Joe Bell.

This is the departure of some serious firepower, as those three combined for 43 percent of the team’s goals last season. Dike has been thriving in the professional ranks, recently being named the MLS Player of the Month for August after tallying three goals and two assists in five matches for Orlando City.

No matter what the situation looks like, the Cavaliers will come prepared. They return seven players that saw action in at least 20 games last year, six of which started 22 combined. 

Much of that experience comes from senior forward Nathaniel Crofts. Behind Dike and Bell, he was third on the team last year in goals (6), five of which came against Top-25 teams, along with being the lead returning points-scorer (15).

Conference coaches have been put on watch by Crofts’s performances, as he was one of 11 players named to the ACC Preseason Watch List.

With Crofts attempting to put the ball in the back of the net on one end of the field, the Cavaliers will have an elite keeper between the posts on their side.

Goalie Colin Shutler will return for the Wahoos as a graduate student and fifth-year senior, coming off of a first-team All-American campaign where he played every minute of all 24 games and had the fourth-highest save percentage (.827) in the country.  

A familiar name will be helping anchor the Hoos’ back line, as redshirt freshman Reed Kessler looks to fill the shoes of older brother Henry, who now sees action for the MLS’ New England Revolution.

Outside of the Kessler family tree, Davidson graduate transfer Louis Evans and Coastal Carolina transfer Oliver Gerbig will both compete to help stabilize the defense. 

Colin Shutler

The new players got a taste of last year’s success, as the team recently received their ACC Championship rings, earned after their 3-1 victory over Clemson.

Said Ueland, “The first-years got to see [the rings], which I think can be motivation for them to want to fight for another one.” 

Shutler seconded this notion. “It kinda just puts it into perspective… a lot of us have that type of experience now to where we can lead the younger guys into another run for an ACC Championship and hopefully another NCAA run in the spring.”

That run will have to wait a little longer, as the Cavaliers’ found out Friday that their 1 p.m. exhibition match Saturday at Syracuse has been canceled. The team’s first scheduled exhibition match last week against Clemson was also canceled.

The Hoos will now jump into regular-season play at Virginia Tech on Saturday, Oct. 3, before returning to Klöckner Stadium to face Louisville in the home opener on Friday, Oct. 9.

2020 Virginia Men’s Soccer Schedule
Oct. 3 — at Virginia Tech (6 p.m.)
Oct. 9 — LOUISVILLE (7 p.m.)
Oct. 16 — PITTSBURGH (6 p.m.)
Oct. 24 — at Notre Dame (1 p.m.)
Oct. 30 — SYRACUSE (8 p.m.)
Nov. 6 — VIRGINIA TECH (4 p.m.)
Nov. 15 — ACC Quarterfinals
Nov. 18 — ACC Semifinals
Nov. 22 — ACC Championship (TBD, Cary, N.C.)
HOME GAMES in BOLD

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