DAVIDSON, N.C. -- No split titles, no penalty kicks and n doubt. The University of Virginia has the best men's college soccer team in the country.
The Cavaliers confirmed expectations and won their third NCAA Division I championship in four years, defeating the University of San Diego, 2-0, in yesterday's final at Richardson Field on the campus of Davidson College.
"To me, this is the best one," Virginia coach Bruce Arena said, thinking back upon title-game ties with Santa Clara in 1989 and 1991 that ended in a shared title and penalty kicks, respectively.
"To get this one was very special. We've won back-to-back championships, which hasn't been done in 10 years. We went out and won this, with no debate."
Sophomore Nate Friends and senior Erik Imler scored second-half goals for Virginia (21-2-1), which tied a school record for victories in a season. The Cavaliers breezed through the postseason, outscoring the opposition 18-3 in the six games since their regular-season loss to George Mason.
West Coast Conference champion San Diego, a 7-12 team last year, completed its season at 19-5. The Cavaliers broke the Toreros' nine-game winning streak and became the first team to shut them out this season.
"Not only are they highly technical, but they're physical, too," San Diego coach Seamus McFadden said. "We're a quick counter-attacking side. We've got speed and quickness. They've got speed, quickness and size."
Ten players with national team experience doesn't hurt either. Virginia used them to become the first repeat champion since Indiana did it in 1982-83.
Despite playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, the Cavaliers dominated play, controlling the ball for more than 30 of the 45 minutes and outshooting San Diego 9-0. Sophomore forward A.J. Wood beat his mark, sophomore defender Scott Farley, consistently in the opening period and nearly scored twice. He hit the left post from 10 yards away in the 16th minute and got behind Farley again for a semi-breakaway in the 34th minute, only to be denied by Toreros goalkeeper Scott Garlick.
"We played extremely well in the first half and had nothing to show for it," Arena said. "I was a little nervous
TTC in the locker room, and these guys couldn't care less. They knew they were going to win. They're that confident."
As in Virginia's semifinal victory against Duke, junior goalkeeper Jeff Causey made two timely saves early in the second half to keep the game scoreless long enough for his teammates to break it open. He dove right to make a save on David Beall's 15-yard low blast in the 56th minute, the Toreros' first shot of the game. Two minutes later, Causey dove right to stop overlapping defender Kevin Arthur from the same spot.
Arena reacted to the pressure by sending substitutes David Cox and Friends into the game for Tain Nix and leading scorer Ben Crawley, who were playing with a broken toe and a pulled quadricep, respectively. The fresh legs provided the game-winning goal.
Senior midfielder Brad Agoos, 28 yards away from the goal, sent a looping ball forward to Friends at the edge of the goal box. Friends got behind Toreros defender Roger Lindqvist and battled Garlick for the ball. Friends managed to nudge it away from the goalkeeper, take one touch right, and float the ball into the vacated cage from 8 yards away for his seventh goal of the season at 69:31.
Sophomore midfielder Claudio Reyna, voted the tournament's most valuable player on offense, started the play that led to the second goal, holding the ball in the penalty area and waiting for trailing Agoos to overlap to his right. He fed Agoos the ball, and Agoos floated a cross to Imler at the far post. Imler, who had come forward, headed the ball into the open goal from 4 yards away for his seventh goal of the season at 77:33.
Causey recorded his 10th shutout in 18 postseason matches. The Cavaliers outshot their foes 17-5.