It seems like every question about the postseason success of the Virginia men's soccer team these past few weeks leads back to the Cavaliers' 11-match unbeaten streak during the regular season.
Burt according to the Cavaliers, that 7-0-4 run -- and the confidence that it built, as the streak stretched from mid-September to early November -- is the biggest reason why the team is a win away from another College Cup appearance.
"I feel like that was the most important part of our season. The confidence part," sophomore Marcus Salandy-Defour said Wednesday morning after practice. "Once you get on a run, you just don't want to lose. It's not an option. So I feel like that played an important part."
"I've never been a part of a team like this, that knows we can always go down, and know that we're still never out of the game," said sophomore forward Darius Madison. "So that run boosted our confidence really well, going into the ACC Tournament. And right now I think we're really clicking well at a great time of the year, going into our Elite Eight game."
The eight-seed Cavaliers face Connecticut at 7 p.m. Friday at Klöckner Stadium. Virginia's two NCAA Tournament wins have both come at home this postseason, with the Cavaliers outscoring their opponents 5-1 in those two matches.
UConn advanced to the national quarterfinals for the third consecutive year with last weekend's upset of top-seeded UCLA. The Huskies rallied from a 2-0 hole to beat the Bruins 5-4 in penalty kicks.
"Everybody sees that they were an unseeded team in the NCAA, in the field of 48, but probably got a raw deal, to be honest with you," UVa coach George Gelnovatch said of UConn on Wednesday. "They are clearly a College Cup-slash-national championship-contender type of team. I mean, you don't go to UCLA and advance without being a very, very good team."
Had UCLA beaten the Huskies last Sunday, the Cavaliers would have been flying cross-country on Thursday morning to visit the Bruins. Instead, they're happy to have UConn coming to them -- for a number of reasons.
"It's great to stay in the same routine that we've had for the past two weeks," said sophomore midfielder Todd Wharton. "We're doing it like we did the last two weeks. We're going up to the stadium to practice tomorrow. It's going to be nice, being in that same little routine that we've got going."
"We usually have a great crowd for every game. And being home, it's a great opportunity," said Madison. "And just traveling across country to go to UCLA, that would be a hassle for us. So just being at home will be a great opportunity for us."
"Getting the bus, and meals, and practice times and restaurants. All that stuff," said Gelnovatch. "The logistics really drain you. And so that's a big part of being at home, too."