Senior midfielder Eric Bird likes what he has seen from the rest of the Virginia men's soccer team entering Friday's regular season opener.
"I guess there's a few injuries. We're kind of limping into the start of the season," Bird said Wednesday morning following practice. "But other than the injuries I think we're in a good spot. Definitely with the whole attitude of the team. Everyone is confident, and just hungry to get after it."
UVa opens the season Friday night at Klöckner Stadium against Old Dominion. The Wahoos enter the season ranked No. 3 in the country, and with expectations of a second consecutive trip to the NCAA College Cup.
Last year's postseason run marked the fourth College Cup appearance for UVa under head coach George Gelnovatch, including the 2009 national title team. But on Wednesday, Gelnovatch pointed to the injuries Bird alluded to as a potential bump in the road.
Gelnovatch said juniors Darius Madison (ankle) and Todd Wharton (knee) wouldn't play in Friday's opener. With six goals and three assists apiece, they're two of the Cavaliers' three leading scorers from last year's team.
A few other potential starters, Ryan Zinkhan and Nicko Corriveau, are also nicked up, Gelnovatch said. And those injuries come after junior Marcus Salandy-Defour was lost for the season because of a knee injury over the summer.
"This time of year, to have so many guys with significant minutes, and important players, under their belt, that are not ready yet or out for the year is a little concerning," Gelnovatch said. "And with any championship run, you have to have some good fortune in that regard, with regards to injury, and I hope that we're just getting it out of the way early."
Gelnovatch also downplayed the expectations that have seemingly been mounting for his team since the end of last season.
"I really feel like there's 15 other programs, 20 other programs that are just as good as us right now," he said. "It's really how much better you get, and every day getting better, staying the course, steady."
"We did a great job last year at those things. We got better," Gelnovatch added. "And if we do that again, and stay healthy, and get a little lucky, we'll have a chance to do a little better than last year."