Dec. 4, 2009

By Paul Long
Special to

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. –– Diego Restrepo was seldom tested during the first 65 minutes of Friday night’s NCAA men’s soccer quarterfinal at Klockner Stadium.

But the Virginia goalkeeper faced a daunting challenge in the 66th minute, when Maryland’s Jason Herrick was dragged down in the box and awarded a penalty kick.

As Herrick approached the ball, an audible buzz rippled through the partisan Virginia crowd.

Restrepo hadn’t allowed a goal since the Cavaliers’ 3-1 victory over Virginia Tech on Oct. 17. Since then, he had recorded 10 consecutive shutouts, leading Virginia to the ACC tournament championship and a berth in the Elite Eight.

Rather than faking to one side of the net or the other, Herrick chose to launch a shot directly at the center of the goal. Restrepo guessed correctly and made a diving stop. The crowd erupted, the Terps never threatened the rest of the way and the Cavs pulled away for a 3-0 victory, earning a spot in next weekend’s College Cup semifinals in Cary, N.C.

Restrepo has not allowed a goal in 1,107 minutes 34 seconds, shattering the Virginia school record set by Tony Meola in 1988. The shutout streak is now at 11 matches, and the Cavs are unbeaten in their last 14 outings.

“The confidence of the team and myself is just great,” Restrepo said. “We peaked at the right moment. (Early in the season) we were grinding to get results, but now things are going good for us. We’re defending well, but we also are scoring. So you couldn’t ask for a better thing coming up in this part of the year.”

The redshirt junior from West Palm Beach, Fla., said he faced a penalty kick from Herrick last year and remembered how the junior forward approached the ball. Restrepo assumed Herrick would attempt a similar shot Friday night. And he did.

Virginia coach George Gelnovatch said Restrepo has played well during the streak but has received plenty of help from his teammates.

“It’s a very good goalkeeper; it’s an outstanding goalkeeper,” Gelnovatch said. “It’s a great back four, but it’s also our team mentality. Guys are blocking shots. Guys are throwing their bodies in front of plays. Guys are heading balls out. Guys are getting behind the ball, and it’s not just those guys in the back who are doing fantastic ––  and Diego. It’s really a team mentality that we developed early in the season.”

Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said it was evident that the Cavs were feeding off their keeper.

“I think he gives the team a tremendous amount of confidence,” Cirovski said.  “I think they feel like he’s going to stop whatever gets behind them right now, and he’s been doing it. It’s been a remarkable feat, really.”

The Cavs struck just five minutes in. Neil Barlow was credited with an unassisted goal after his cross from the left side deflected off a Maryland defender. Terps senior midfielder Drew Yates said the early goal changed Maryland’s approach.

“We had some good chances,” said Yates. “I was picking up a lot of second balls after they got the goal, because the Virginia backs were kind of laying them off to me right there. And I was trying to create stuff, but we just couldn’t get it into the back of the net. And once they scored the second goal in the second half, it kind of deflated us a little bit. We could have gotten back into it with the PK, but we just didn’t convert, and that was the story of the game.”