CARY, N.C. — As the top-ranked team in the NCAA men’s soccer field, Virginia was the favorite to capture what would have been UVa’s third national championship of the 2019 calendar year.
If that wasn’t such a difficult feat, it would happen a little more regularly, as became apparent Sunday night when Georgetown and Virginia went to the seventh round of penalty kicks before Hoyas goalie Tomas Romero stopped UVa freshman Axel Gunnarsson to end the suspense.
Earlier in the year, Virginia had won NCAA championships in men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse.
Georgetown’s victory Sunday came on the same WakeMed Park Field where Virginia had won championships in 2009 and 2014, both of which were decided in penalty kicks.
Both teams scored during the first six rounds of penalty kicks Sunday. The penalty-kick shootout was preceded by two 10-minutes overtime periods that did not yield any goals.
“Traditionally, we’ve been really good [in shootouts] when we get to this phase,” UVa coach George Gelnovatch said, “and we made six today. What more could you ask for as a coach? Your first six guys nailed them.
“We were prepared. They were prepared, and we missed the last one. ”
The Cavaliers, who went into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed and entered the title game on a 10-game winning streak, finished the season at 21-2-1. Georgetown ended up at 20-1-3.
After Joe Bell had staked the Cavaliers to a 1-0 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes, Georgetown had two goals in a five-minute, 22-second span. The Hoyas held onto the lead until the 58th minute, when UVa tied the score on a goal by Daniel Steedman, who was assisted by Irakoze Donasiyano.
Donasiyano, a graduate of Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, later scored one of the goals in the shootout.
“When we scored, they scored and they scored,” Gelnovatch said of the opening minutes, “and this thing became a different animal. It was two teams now going for it. Instead of protecting yourself, it was two teams punching each other.
“When you have those kind of back-and-forth transitions, it’s tiring, especially when you played [in the semifinals] Friday.
“We checked every box [this season] except the last one.”
Virginia suffered a major loss when senior Robin Afamefuna was helped from the field in the 78th minute.
“You kind of sign up for this when you start playing soccer,” Bell said. “Tonight, it didn’t go our way but it is what it is.”