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Return to Glory

12/15/2009

The cool thing about tradition is that it never goes away. Teams with long histories of success always have a special aura about them, something that speaks to years of greatness. Even when those teams have a down period, you can always expect them to bounce back to their winning ways.

Virginia: The University of Virginia men's soccer team is one of these storied programs. During the 1990s, the Cavaliers were the top program in the country. They were co-national champions in 1989; then won four straight College Cups between 1991 and 1994. UVA was on top of the world; the gold standard in college soccer.

Down Years: Even the best teams go through slumps, and starting in 1995 Virginia suffered a championship drought. Despite some very good teams and players, the Cavs couldn't get back to the top of the hill. In the 2000s, they never reached the College Cup Final Four, until now.

2009: Last weekend, Virginia returned to the College Cup finals. This year they were taking on the powerful Akron Zips, who were undefeated and hadn't allowed a goal through the entire College Cup tournament. If Virginia was going to win a long overdue national championship, the Cavs had their work cut out for them.

The Game: The two best teams in the country played like it, as Virginia and Akron matched zeroes for two halves and two overtime periods. Both teams played excellent, swarming defense as the athletes gave it their all. The match moved into penalty kicks. When the dust settled, the Cavaliers pulled out a 3-2 victory to win the program's sixth national title.

The Legacy: This year's Virginia players were well aware of their team's tradition. They knew that it had been 15 years since UVA last won a College Cup. But they believed in themselves and knew they were just as good as the players that wore Cavaliers colors more than a decade ago. Then they went out and proved it.

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