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Spring 1998
Boo Who?
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West is Best

Soccer fanatics were shocked and thrilled when the UCLA men’s team knocked off the University of Virginia Cavaliers for the NCAA Championship last December -- on their home field. The Virginia futbol dynasty had won four straight NCAA titles in the ’90s, and with the final being played in their backyard of Richmond, Virginia, it looked to everyone like UCLA’s chances were less than zero.

Everyone but Sigi Schmid. In fact, the Bruin coach saw the handwriting on the wall for his team back in November when the Bruins beat then No. 6 Duke, 4-2, despite the fact that UCLA’s leading scorer, Sasha Victorine, was injured.

“We’d heard so many good things about Duke, how they were athletically the best team in the country,” recalls Schmid. “But we played right with them -- they had trouble with us. I remember thinking: We could go all the way. If we can deal with these guys, then we can handle anybody.”

But Schmid’s faith would be tested. The Bruins went into the Final Four as underdogs, with injuries to key starters Victorine, Pete Vagenas and Kevin Coye. The coach was forced to juggle his lineup. But in a portent of the finals, UCLA knocked off previously undefeated, No. 1-ranked Indiana in the semis (“The best team in the middle of the country,” says Schmid), in triple overtime 1-0. McKinley Tennyson, Jr., a Hoosier native, booted the winning goal, while senior goalie Matt Reis (drafted by the Los Angeles Galaxy this winter) recorded a record 11 saves.

Reis came through again in the finals with nine saves. Junior Seth George scored both goals to lead fellow all-tournament players Tennyson, Josh Keller, Tom Poltl and Carlos Bocanegra to a historic 2-0 victory, notching not only UCLA’s third national title, but a school record 22 season wins as well. That they had to do it on Virginia’s turf hardly fazed the Bruins, who played a strategic defensive game that seemed to frustrate the Cavaliers.

“Virginia has been the best team on the East Coast and we’ve been considered the best team on the West Coast,” says Schmid, who also helmed the Bruin title teams of ’85 and ’90. But in all those years we never played them. So it was special, because we really wanted to show that UCLA is every bit the soccer institution Virginia is.”

-- Paul Feinberg ’85

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