University of Virginia - Five Star Recruiting Class - Optimism is the optimum word in Charlottesville where ten starters return including 2012 All-ACC Freshman selections Darius Madison, Todd Wharton, and Marcus Salandy-Defour who was also a 2012 College Soccer News Second Team All-Freshman selection. Cavalier head coach George Gelnovatch will also welcome a ten member recruiting class that is among the best in the country.
Virginia was among the greenest teams in the nation last year. Seven freshmen started at least ten games and four sophomores started at least fifteen games. Forward Will Bates was the only senior in the 2012 starting lineup. Bates, a two-time All-ACC First Team member, had a stellar four-year tenure at Virginia with forty-six career goals. Gelnovatch will have to replace the big play ability that Bates brought to the Cavalier lineup. The committee approach appears to be the most viable solution.
Virginia made its thirty-second consecutive NCAA Tourney appearance last year, the longest current streak in the nation. That is an impressive record but an invite to the NCAA Tourney by itself is not the goal for the program. This is a team that annually sets its sights on advancing to the Final Four (College Cup) and winning a National Championship as the Cavaliers last did in 2009.
The Cavaliers are probably a year away from having the combination of talent and experience needed to be a Final Four team but based on the experience they gained in 2012 chances are pretty good that they will improve in 2013 upon the 10-7-4 overall record and 3-4-1 mark in ACC play from a year ago. Virginia improved as the 2012 season progressed losing only once in their last eight contests when they were defeated 3-1 by New Mexico in Albuquerque in the second round of the NCAA Tourney.
Sophomores Darius Madison (2g, 0a) and Marcus Salandy-Defour (2g, 3a) are among the key returning players with Bates out of the mix who could become the Cavalier's go-to goal scorers. Junior Chris Somerville(2g, 0a) and Ryan Sinkham (1g, 0a) who missed part of the 2012 season due to injuries will seek to play a greater role in 2013. Junior Kyle McCord and senior Cameron Chavira (1g, 0a) are among other returning forwards who look to be in the mix up-top. Newcomers Nicko Corriveau and Riggs Lennon who are rated by College Soccer News as the number two and fourteen recruits in the class of 2013 could contribute immediately up-top.
The midfield looks to be very talented and deep which will give Gelnovatch a lot of lineup options. Salandy-Defour can be utilized up-top or in the midfield. Junior Eric Bird (2g, 1a), sophomores Todd Wharton (1g, 0a), Brian James (1g, 2a), and Jordan Poarch, and redshirt seniors Marcus Douglas (0g, 1a) and Sean Mumane are among a solid core of retuning linkmen. Incoming freshmen Jordan Allen and Patrick Foss are among several very talented midfielders who will likely compete for playing time right away.
Junior right back Kyler Sullivan, junior center back Matt Brown (1g, 0a), sophomore center back Zach Carroll (4g, 2a) who missed several games due to injury and sophomore Scott Thomsen (0g, 8a) who led the Cavaliers in assists last year return to give Virginia a very solid backline. Redshirt senior back Shane Cooke, senior back Kevin McBride, and junior Grant Silvester will also be in the mix in the back.
Junior Spencer LaCivita, who has been the starter in goal for the past two seasons, returns between the pipes . Last year LaCivita had a 1.05 goals against average with six shutouts.
The young Virginia players gained valuable experience last year and played well but they can't afford to rest on their laurels if they hope to be part of a vintage Cavalier team. Virginia has not been at the level of a Maryland or a North Carolina since winning the National Championship in 2009. Virginia's 1-0 win over Lafayette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year was the program's first win in NCAA Tourney play since the 2009 national championship game against Akron. However, they clearly have remained a team that no one takes lightly.
The very best Virginia teams, including the 2009 National Championship squad, have been physically and mentally tough in addition to being very talented. That toughness translates into a level of intensity that is usually only found in teams with strong senior leadership. Whether Virginia has what it takes to be special team in 2013 remains to be seen.
Pablo Aguilar -Midfielder -Guatemala City, Guatemala - The Pendelton School - Named IMG Soccer Academy's Most Valuable Player Award for 2011-2012. Played for U.S. U-15 National Team.
Jordan Allen -Midfielder - Rochester, New York -Aquinas High School -Rated number three player in the class of 2013 by CSN. Member of the U.S. U-18 National Team. Also member of U-17 National Team.
Nicko Corriveau -Forward -Potomac, Maryland -Gonzaga High School - Rated number two player in the class of 2013 by CSN. Played for Bethesda SC. NSCAA High School and Youth All-American.
Luc Fatton - Midfielder -Charlottesville, Virginia -Albemarle High School -Played for Richmond Strikers Academy for three years. Virginia State ODP team member. Led High School team to AAA Title.
Hayes Fountain -Midfielder -Charlottesville, Virginia - Western Albemarle High School -Plays for Richmond Strikers club team. Member Virginia ODP team.
Riggs Lennon -Forward -Phoenix, Arizona -Brophy Prep -Rated number fourteen player in the class of 2013 by CSN. Played with U.S. U-17 National Team. Named Gatorade Player of the Year. Sereno SC.
Cole Moffatt -Goalkeeper -South Pasadena, California -Loyola High School -Named MVP of Trabucco Hills Tournament. Led high school team to three straight Mission League championships. League MVP.
Wesley Suggs -Defender -Hyattsville, Maryland - DeMatha Catholic High School - Rated number 117 player in the class of 2013 by CSN. Washington Post All-Met First Team. Played club with AC Bethesda.
Sheldon Sullivan - Defender -Stafford, Virginia -North Stafford High School -Two-time All-District. Virginia State ODP team. Region 1 ODP team. Three year starter in high school.
Patrick Foss -Midfielder -South Riding, Virginia -U.S. Soccer Residency -Rated number thirty-one recruit in class of 2013 by CSN. Member of the U.S. U-17 National Team. Played for DC United U-18 Academy.