With a roster heavy on first- and second-year players, the one thing the Virginia men's soccer team arguably lacked entering the season was game experience.
But according to coach George Gelnovatch, his team came of age during its 11-game unbeaten streak that stretched from mid-September to the first day of November.
"We just quietly went about our business, and just developed this kind of intangible will to win, not to lose," Gelnovatch said Wednesday. "And got ourselves to a good point, so that at the end of the season, that's kind of who we were."
On Wednesday afternoon, Gelnovatch and his team were on the turf of the George Welsh Indoor Facility at UVa, preparing for Sunday's match against Marquette in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Cavaliers -- who earned a first-round bye as the No. 8 seed in the tournament -- advanced with a 2-0 win against St. John's in Round 2 last Sunday.
"With every single game we play, we're getting more and more experience, and you can see us starting to blossom at the right time," junior midfielder Eric Bird said Wednesday. "Last game we actually got back to getting the ball on the ground. And out-passing the other team, and out-possessing them. And, you know, dominating them."
Bird admitted after Wednesday's practice that the Cavaliers hadn't spent much time game-planning for the Golden Eagles this week. According to Gelnovatch, the focus has been on fine-tuning what his team does best.
"Hopefully you've worked all year -- on the field, off the field -- to get them the right mentality," he said. "Physically right, mentally right. Peaking at the right time. All those things, so that you get to that point -- and here's where we are -- from a coaching standpoint, just keep them on track."