Virginia tops Akron on PKs to win College Cup
CARY, N.C. -- There are pictures of each of Virginia's national championship teams hanging in its locker room, and there's about to be an addition to the wall.
The Cavaliers beat Akron 3-2 on penalty kicks after a scoreless game to win the NCAA Men's College Cup on Sunday.
"Walking by it every single day and seeing those guys and how happy they were in those pictures on the wall," Virginia defender Mike Volk said, "we told ourselves as a team that we wanted to be there one day. It finally came."
Virginia won the title when Blair Gavin, who made the clinching penalty kick to help Akron eliminate North Carolina in Friday's semifinals, sent the final shot high over the crossbar.
The second-seeded Cavaliers (19-3-3) claimed their sixth College Cup championship, and first since they won four national titles in a row from 1991-94.
"I knew it would come," said George Gelnovatch, in his 14th season as coach after serving as an assistant during the team's run in the early 1990s. "I told my athletic director that, and I told our associate athletic director that. It's not a matter of if; it's going to be when. I was hellbent on making sure of that."
The Cavaliers led 3-1 after three rounds of penalty kicks after Akron's Zarek Valentin and Kofi Sarkodie failed to convert. Virginia goalkeeper Diego Restrepo stopped Valentin's shot in the first round, and Sarkodie banged the ball off the left post in the third.
Virginia's Jonathan Villanueva, the tournament's Most Outstanding Offensive Player, and Greg Monaco each had a chance to clinch the title. But Akron goalkeeper David Meves moved to his left to stop both shots.
That set the stage for Gavin, who had been 5 for 5 on penalty kicks this season. After Gavin misfired, he remained facedown on the rain-soaked field while the Cavaliers celebrated.
"It stinks, but I'm proud of my guys," Akron midfielder Ben Zemanski said. "We fought in every game this season, and to come up short that way is tough."
The top-seeded Zips (23-1-1), making their second College Cup appearance, failed in their bid to win their school's first NCAA team championship in any sport. This trip to the final four ended the same as their last one -- with a loss to an ACC opponent. Duke beat Akron 1-0 in the 1986 final.
Akron's scoreless game against North Carolina in the semifinals went down as a tie for both teams because it went to penalty kicks. But the NCAA makes an exception to the rule when its championship game goes to PKs, declaring a winner and a loser.
The result ended Akron's unbeaten streak at 24 games, even though the Zips ended their season with five consecutive shutouts.
"Second place hurts worse than any of the others because you get so close you can taste it," coach Caleb Porter said. "What makes this one even more tough is we didn't give up a goal in the entire NCAA tournament, and yet we don't take home any hardware. I told the guys, though, that they have nothing to hang their heads on."
The Cavaliers finished the season with a 16-game unbeaten streak. They recorded shutouts in 12 of their final 13 matches with Restrepo, a transfer from South Florida who was honored as the tournament's Most Outstanding Defensive Player, in net.
"We just came together," Restrepo said. "The result is we are national champions."