Blair Gavin lay on the WakeMed Soccer Park field late Sunday afternoon, legs sprawled out to both sides, head buried in his hands.
Seconds earlier, the junior midfielder for Akron shot a national championship-deciding penalty kick that sailed over the net, ending what many had called a season of destiny for the top-seeded, undefeated Zips. Following a scoreless draw through regulation and two overtimes, No. 2-seeded Virginia defeated Akron 3-2 on penalty kicks for the Cavaliers’ sixth national title.
Akron, which defeated North Carolina 5-4 on penalty kicks Friday in the semifinals, had set numerous school and national records in the regular season. The Zips (23-1-1) entered the College Cup determined to be the first team to ever win a title in Akron’s sporting history.
But the Cavaliers (19-3-3) had come a long way, as well. They began their season with what coach George Gelnovatch called a “grind”—three straight exhibition losses—and Gelnovatch said their turning point didn’t come until almost two months into the season. Yet Virginia’s swarming, steady defense—which led the nation in fewest goals allowed per game this year—coupled with key stops by goalie Diego Restrepo and the offensive leadership of senior midfielder Jonathan Villanueva, eventually brought Virginia its first men’s soccer national championship since 1994.