The No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers face an undefeated No. 1 Akron Zips squad today for the 2009 NCAA National Championship in the College Cup. Neither team was able to get the job done in regulation during the semifinals on Friday, and both teams will be looking to outshoot the other in a battle of goalkeepers.
The key for Virginia lies in the hands of keeper Diego Restrepo, who earlier set the school single-season record for shutouts, at 15. Restrepo finds himself with a lot to prove as Virginia seeks its sixth national title. He found himself as third-string goalkeeper on USA's U-17 team at the 2005 Youth World Cup in Peru.
"My main job is to keep the team sharp by working hard in practice," Restrepo, who spent his formative years in Colombia, mentioned. "Besides, you never know what will happen."
Unfortunately, nothing did happen for Restrepo that year, and he began his college career at South Florida. It was there, in 2007, that Restrepo found himself sluggishly overcoming Colgate 2-1 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and slated to face Akron next.
"One of [Akron's] coaches was there watching, and in his pregame he mentioned that I wasn't very good and stuff," Restrepo said. "I came back and had the game of my life."
It took two overtimes to get it done, but USF beat Akron 1-0.
It may very well go into overtimes, and even perhaps penalty kicks, again this afternoon, as both Restrepo and Akron's keeper David Meves (Fr.) are playing their best soccer right now. Akron has a 0.3 goals against average, and is second only to Virginia's 0.29. The two schools lead in all five NCAA statistics categories: Scoring Offense (Akron), Teams Goals Against Average (Virginia), Shutout Percentage (Akron), W-L-T Percentage (Akron), and Save Percentage (Virginia).
Virginia is currently the champion in what is far and away the most toughest conference in the country. Akron has only played one ACC team this season, which was last Friday vs. UNC. The Zips needed 90 minutes of regulation, 20 minutes of overtime, and ultimately penalty kicks to get the job done.
Akron has the top-ranked offense in the country, while Virginia has the top-ranked defense. The teams did not play each other in the regular season, but UVa head coach George Gelnovatch, whose only Finals appearance was in 1997, is looking forward to the challenge.
"It's a little bit more work, for sure," Gelnovatch said. "On the other hand, it's refreshing to play a new face, a new team -- all of the same caliber as our ACC sisters."
This is the first time back since 1997 for Virginia, who won all five of its national titles between 1989 and 1994. Akron has not been back to the title game since 1986, and are looking to complete their storied season today. A win today would make Akron the first team in 35 years to go undefeated and win a national championship.