ACC vs. Akron: 2-3-5 takes aim at 1

[MEN'S COLLEGE CUP] The coaches of the three ACC teams -- Virginia, Wake Forest and North Carolina -- addressed the media on Thursday, the eve of the 2009 Men's College Cup in Cary, N.C. Here's what they said about Friday's semifinals ...

Virginia Head Coach George Gelnovatch

About the progression of the team this year
"There has been a progression and it really hasn't been by design. Sometimes there are things you have control over, some things you don't. I certainly would not have forecast or predicted the rough start for us. I say rough; we won our first two games out in Portland, but it wasn't easy for us going forward. Our mentality in the first half of the season really had to be to dig our heels in and make sure the other team doesn't score. That's who we were. We owned it. We knew it. We got the results but it wasn't smooth. Around the second week of October, as things got a little easier for us going forward - attacking, attacking combinations, goals, wins, confidence - we kept that mentality. The word I've used is grinding. We've kept that blue-collar mentality of not giving up goals to keep us in games, not only as a back four and our goalkeeper and midfielders, but collectively as a team as well."

On the move of Will Bates to forward
"He was playing more of a wide position for us, and it was a conscious decision [to move him]. We felt that the other combinations we were using with that position weren't effective for us. It was about that time that things started to get a little easier for us. It didn't happen overnight. It was game by game."

On the defense's play throughout the season
"I think those guys across the back have been good all year. Diego [Restrepo, goalkeeper] has been good all year, and Ross LaBauex, our holding midfielder. But you can't have 14 shutouts and go as long as we have [not allowing a goal] without your team having that mentality too. Five, six guys defending, that's not going to do it. It's got to be part of who you are as a team. So yes, the defense played great. Yes, Diego played great. But our collective mentality in the first half of the season was making sure they don't score."

Wake Forest Head Coach Jay Vidovich

About this season
"We've had a tremendous year for the program in terms of growth of the student-athletes. I'm just very proud of what they've done, in particular this group that's up here. This senior group has filled in a big void with a lot tremendous player leaving our program. I think they've done a tremendous job with leadership and getting us back here to Cary. We're just very excited about the opportunity to get back to the College Cup, and have the opportunity to see if we can advance and be alive on Sunday."

On the team's top-five preseason ranking
"When you look at it we lost nine guys to the pros and another player to injury. We were a decimated team, very young and inexperienced, and I didn't see how during preseason time we could be thought to be a top-five team."

"I think it's a different thing now. That goes back to what I said originally, and that is that there's been a tremendous growth of these kids. Zack [Schilawski], Austin [da Luz] and Akira [Fitzgerald], they came to Wake Forest to win championships and they knew what they had to do to be there in the end."

On how the team progressed throughout the season
"We did everything a lot better. They way we defended, we were much more compact as a team. We defended with more urgency and attacked. We were finding more ways to get Zack [Schilawski] the ball to finish. Austin [da Luz] has done a tremendous job of servicing different players. The way we're playing, just how we are working together, the team chemistry has improved."

North Carolina Head Coach Elmar Bolowich

Opening Statement
"Welcome to everybody here. We are obviously thrilled to be here. It's very familiar territory for us with the ACC Tournament here in this stadium every year. We'll be very familiar with the weather and we are looking forward to the competition. With the teams that are here, there are no surprises this year when you are looking at it in terms of RPI and the seedings, which are number one, two, three and five. Deservedly so all the teams coming together this week have a right to be here. We are really looking forward to the competition tomorrow starting with Akron."

On the previous meetings in the past few years with Akron helping the team
"You can throw that out the window. Every year we are facing new teams with new personnel. Akron is a different team now than they were two or three years ago when we played them in the Wake Tournament. You can't lean on that. You have to figure out how you are going to match up. This is also the knockout stage, not the opening of the season. We are facing a team that knows what they are doing. We are just looking forward to it. It's a really good team and should be a competitive game where both teams try to play. Hopefully it will be exciting for the fans and everyone involved."

On the difference in the team's mentality since playing in the College Cup last year
"Last year we didn't have many nerves. Last year we came in as the 13 seed and played the one seed right away in Wake Forest and came out with a result. At this stage you want to play your best game. You just want to be sharp. That's what we were trying to instill with our players. Just go out and enjoy this and be sharp. Play as good as you can play. Whatever happens will happen."

On the strengths of Akron
"On the both sides, they are very effective. They have given up, to my knowledge, only about seven goals on the year. They've had quite a few shutouts, which tells me their defense plays well. I know that they are a hardworking team. Their transition into defense is very quick. They are very committed to trying to prevent the other team from going into counter attacks or getting open looks at the goal. They try to play very quickly. They try to get openings with the other team's defenses to get shots on goal. When I look at the statistics from game to game, they pretty much have dominated the teams that they have played. They have gotten the results in that fashion by playing tight defense and still not compromising going for goals."

On importance of patience on the ball against Akron
"You're working so hard defensively to win that ball back from teams that play well. You don't want to give it up on the very next pass. You want to generate something yourself so you can get into a rhythm where you play a little bit in front of the other teams goal and get an opportunity that way."

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