Greg Monaco, a defender on the men's soccer team, recently checked in with VirginiaSports.com to preview the ACC Tournament and talk about the season so far. Virginia faces Maryland at noon on Wednesday in an ACC Tournament quarterfinal match in Cary, N.C.
Question: How is the team feeling after being unbeaten through the last eight games of the regular season and heading into postseason play?
Monaco: We've had a great stretch. We've won six games and tied two so that's a good feeling going into the ACC Tournament and we feel like we're hitting our stride at the right time. Maryland was one of those ties, and they are one of our biggest rivals in the ACC so we are all fired up. It's going to be a battle, but if we want to be considered one of the best teams of the country, then we need to win our next three games at the ACC Tournament.
Question: Last season, Maryland came away with a 1-0 victory over UVa in the championship match of the tournament. How much does that play into this year's quarterfinal contest?
Monaco: It's a new team, but there are some of the guys that played in that game still on the team. So they have that experience. You come to UVa to play in that championship game. It's going to be a tough road back to that title game, but hopefully we can do it.
Question: Defense has been a big storyline in the team's success recently. Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo is ranked third in the nation in goals allowed, and so is the team as a whole. As a defender, talk about defense being one of the team's strengths.
Monaco: Mike Volk and I work very well back there together. We spend a lot of time together and gel on and off the field. Hunter Jumper and Shawn Barry complement each other great. Shawn's athleticism is off the charts, so that is comforting to have in one of your defenders. Hunter is solid and you can always trust him. The four of us plus Diego are a great combination.
Question: Talk about your evolution from a reserve last season to being a starter in the backfield this season.
Monaco: I redshirted my first year and then saw maybe 20 minutes last year. You've always got to keep your head up and always got to want it. The spring season was a huge help, because I got some time and felt more comfortable. I was able to work on becoming a leader. If you are going to play central defense you need to be vocal.
Questin: You have been sporting a protective mask on your face after sustaining an injury earlier this season. Has that hampered you at all?
Monaco: It's annoying, and the biggest thing is that the mask comes down beneath my chin. I've never really realized it before, but I guess I always have my mouth open when I'm running around playing. The mask keeps it shut, so you'll see me sometimes pull it down during the game just to get a really good breath. I'd say fitness wise, it holds me back a little bit.
Question: What made you want to come to Virginia?
Monaco: I was never really a big recruit coming out of high school. Coach Gelnovatch gave me an opportunity to come be a part of the program and I jumped at that opportunity. Academically, the history of Virginia is so outstanding that it was a no-brainer to me.
Queson: Can you talk about the men's soccer team's community service efforts throughout the year? Monaco:
During the season, we don't get a chance to do too much. Out of season, we sponsor a blood drive. What I enjoyed last year is that we went to the Salvation Army, cleaned it up and cut the grass and weed whacked. It feels good to do stuff like that as a team.