Virginia gets scare, and then win, from Loyola, 2-1 2-time champs advance in NCAA soccer tourney

November 22, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The Loyola Greyhounds had a 12-game unbeaten streak, the hottest goalkeeper in the country and the best record among the NCAA tournament's 16 remaining teams when they came to the University of Virginia yesterday.

None of that mattered against the Cavaliers, who showed the talent and resilience of a two-time national champion.

After falling behind 1-0 early in the second half and after watching Loyola's Zach Thornton nearly end their season with ++ some spectacular plays in goal, Virginia broke through with two goals in a 14-minute stretch to eliminate the Greyhounds, 2-1, before 3,547 at Klockner Stadium.

The Cavaliers (19-3) advanced to next week's quarterfinals against Wisconsin. Virginia, trying to become the first school to win three consecutive national championships, can win its fourth title in the past five years. This marks the sixth straight year that the Cavaliers have advanced to the quarterfinals.

"The best team won. Our guys did everything they could do, everything we asked them to do," said coach Bill Sento, whose Greyhounds (19-3-1) beat Virginia in the playoffs in 1986 and 1987.

The soccer scene at Virginia has changed significantly since then. Yesterday, the Cavaliers had a roster that included 10 Parade All-Americans, and their skill level was clearly a notch higher than the Greyhounds'.

Except for Thornton. The 6-foot-2 junior from Edgewood entered the game with a school-record 17 shutouts and the top ranking in the country with a 0.34 goals-against average. With him in the net, the Greyhounds had allowed seven goals in 22 games.

Thornton made a career-high 11 saves yesterday to blunt the speedy, relentless attack of the Cavaliers, who outshot Loyola 24-14.

Despite being outplayed by Virginia -- which held an 8-2 edge in corner kicks and absorbed 24 fouls by Loyola -- the Greyhounds put a scare into the frustrated Cavaliers. Seven minutes into the second half, Marc Harrison's corner kick went to Chris Doyle, whose pass between two defenders found Dave Briles, who scored from 15 yards out to give the Greyhounds a 1-0 lead.

"I was feeling leery at that point because of the amount of pressure our players were under and due to the superb play of Virginia," Sento said. "With 30 minutes to go leading 1-0, it seemed like the impossible dream. It seemed like it was only a matter of time [before Virginia scored]."

The Cavaliers responded with a ferocious attack on Loyola's goal. Three times, headers went wide or over the crossbar. Finally, after Billy Harte, Loyola's premier defender, left the field temporarily with a bruised shin, A. J. Wood took a cross from Tain Nix and beat Thornton from point-blank range. With 21:45 left, the score was tied, and the momentum had swung back to the Cavaliers.

The game-winner came after another Thornton save. He slid to stop a shot by Nate Friends, and the ball caromed to the right. There, Claudio Reyna, Virginia's leading scorer, caught Thornton scrambling to his feet and sent a crossing shot into the upper right corner from 20 yards out.

"After I saved the first one, I was trying to get back," Thornton said. "I heard the shot, and by the time I picked up the ball, I couldn't get back in time. It was a great shot."

And a great comeback by the Cavaliers.

"Being behind 1-0 to a team that has 17 shutouts, it was quite an accomplishment coming back," Virginia coach Bruce Arena said. This is not an easy tournament to hang around in. The top four seeds have fallen already, but little, old Virginia is still around. We intend to be around for a while."

In the first half, the difference in skill and quickness between the two squads was revealed quickly.

The Cavaliers constantly beat the Greyhounds to the ball, drawing 12 Loyola fouls to Virginia's three. And Virginia, which did not allow a shot within 20 yards of its goal, put continuous pressure on Loyola's net, outshooting the Greyhounds 10-5.

Only Thornton kept the game scoreless by halftime by making six saves, several of them on hard, close shots.

"Getting out of the first half in a 0-0 tie, we felt lucky," Sento said. "In the second half, though, you could see our players getting a little tired.

"It was quite an honor to come down here to Virginia. They're not only talented, they're well-organized. We've played some fine teams this year, but Virginia is in a class of its own."

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