It’s plenty cold as men’s college soccer heats up

Bundled in coats, gloves and winter hats, the Virginia soccer

team gathered in a circle.

The players were rubbing their hands to stay warm Thursday when

freshman Riggs Lennon walked to the middle of the huddle. It was

time for some oratory.

He recited the entire speech from the movie ”Miracle on Ice”

in which Kurt Russell, playing the role of coach Herb Brooks,

addresses the U.S. hockey team before it beats the Soviet Union at

the 1980 Winter Olympics.

No doubt, this weekend’s College Cup – the Final Four of the

NCAA Division I men’s soccer tournament – won’t pack quite the same

punch. Still, many of the players might feel as if they’re playing

on ice when the games begin Friday with temperatures expected in

the 20s.

Notre Dame meets New Mexico in the first semifinal before ACC

rivals Maryland and Virginia play in the nightcap. The winners

advance to Sunday’s national championship game at PPL Park, home of

Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union..

”What weather conditions?” longtime Maryland coach Sasho

Cirovski said Thursday. ”We’ve played for about three weeks in

this kind of weather. When you’re at the College Cup, it’s a

special moment. And I’m sure Friday night everyone will be pretty

warm inside.”

This year marks the first time the College Cup will come to PPL

Park, the third MLS stadium to host the event. The 18,500-seat

stadium along the Delaware River has become an attractive East

Coast venue, having hosted college football, lacrosse and rugby in

addition to selling out most Union home games.

On Friday, stadium workers and Philadelphia Union staffers

shoveled snow off the field after a couple of snowstorms hit the

region the last week.

”This is one of the great MLS facilities,” Virginia coach

George Gelnovatch said. ”I’ve been here before to see games.

They’ve done a great job given the weather conditions. I saw the

before and after picture of the snow yesterday. Given all of those

things, the field looks great.”

Friday’s game marks the third time Maryland and Virginia will

meet this season, with the Terrapins beating the Cavaliers 1-0 in

the ACC tournament championship last month.

Led by Patrick Mullins, who is first in the nation with 16

goals, the Terps followed their league title with NCAA tournament

wins over Providence, UC Irvine and California. This is their

eighth trip to the College Cup in the last 15 years.

Under Cirovski, Maryland (16-3-5) has now advanced to at least

the round of 16 in each of the past 12 seasons.

”I still remember the first time we got to the College Cup, it

was a massive celebration,” Cirovski said. ”Now everyone expects

us to get to the College Cup.”

Virginia (13-5-5) has long been a powerhouse in men’s soccer. It

has won six national championships, with its most recent one coming

in 2009, the Cavaliers’ last trip to the College Cup.

Coming into the season, Gelnovatch said he expected his team to

compete for a national crown in 2014 or 2015. His underclassmen

helped the Cavaliers get past St. John’s, Marquette and Connecticut

en route to the College Cup. One of those players is sophomore

striker Darius Madison, who is from Philadelphia and has played at

PPL Park as part of the Philadelphia Union’s youth academy

program.

”My dream is definitely to play at PPL Park and represent the

Union in Philly,” Madison said.

Notre Dame is making its first trip to the national semifinals.

The Irish have played at PPL Park, having won the Big East

championship there last year. They also know of cold weather.

”I’ve got the sun tan oil on,” Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark

said. ”It’s minus 2, my wife told me this morning, in South Bend.

This is very pleasant.”

Notre Dame (15-1-6) scored a combined 10 goals in previous NCAA

tournament wins over Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Michigan State. The

Irish face a New Mexico team that is 14-5-2 and coming off three

straight NCAA tournament shutouts of George Mason, Penn State and

Washington.

The Lobos are undaunted by the weather.

”We’re a mile high, so I’m always looking around to see where

the mountains are wherever I am,” New Mexico coach Jeremy Fishbein

said. ”The difference is it’s sunny most of the time. . It’s

always an interesting season. You start out in August and you get

some days in the mid-90s, and by the time December rolls around you

get some days in the 20s. But our guys are prepared for

anything.”