George Mason High School’s boys soccer team fell 3-0 to Nelson County High School last Wednesday night in the Region B tournament. The loss not only knocked the Mustangs out of the Regional tournament, it also stopped the team shy of a trip to States.
Mason finished with an overall record of 15-4-1 and a 9-0-1 record in the Bull Run District, en route to claiming the district’s regular and post-season titles.
The Mustangs were unable to convert early scoring opportunities, as they shot wide and hit the post on two separate goal-scoring chances. Nelson County first got on the board 14 minutes into the game when they found a loose ball in Mason’s box and were able to put it into the back of the net. They struck again just two minutes later, building a comfortable 2-0 lead just 16 minutes into the match.
With the score the same at the start of the second half, the Mustangs began to pressure the Nelson County defense, bringing up more players to attack. At the 52-minute mark, however, Mason was called for a handball in the box, and Nelson County was able to put away the subsequent penalty kick to give them a commanding 3-0 lead that they would maintain for the rest of the match.
“Nelson came with the best team we have seen since the beginning of the season when we played AAA teams,” Mason Head Coach Art Iwanicki said, referring to early-season games played against the likes of Robinson and Falls Church High Schools. “They were solid technically, play very well together, had excellent goalkeeping and were [highly] motivated and organized.”
“I can see Nelson winning [the state tournament],” Mason Assistant Coach Frank Spinello said. “They have played together for a few years now and have built a quality team … We just happened to play them in the wrong year.”
With Rappahannock County High School also getting eliminated from the Region B tournament, it means that the Bull Run District will not be sending any teams to the State tournament this year, surprising considering the Bull Run District’s record of success in the tournament.
“I think that Mason and Rappahannock had strong and similar teams — overall fairly solid but without a superstar,” Iwanicki said. “Other districts have become stronger through the years and there is more parity.”
The loss to Nelson County marked the final high school match for senior starters Eric Casteuble, Eddie Huber and Jack Settje. Huber, who played at the forward position, first joined the team this season. Settje, whom Iwanicki referred to as a “tower of strength,” was a two-year contributor in the midfield. Casteuble, whom Iwanicki says will be “difficult to replace,” was a varsity goalkeeper for three seasons. Iwanicki pointed out that, during this stretch, Mason had an undefeated regular season record of 27-0-3 and claimed three consecutive Bull Run District regular season titles.
“As a whole, I think we did incredibly well for a Varsity team that started three freshmen and three sophomores,” Iwanicki said of his team’s season. “At times we had trouble scoring, but our defense was solid, allowing only 19 goals in our 20 games.”
“I know a lot of people may see it as a bad season when Mason boys’ soccer doesn’t make it to states,” Spinello said. “I also know a lot of programs that would have loved to have our season.”
The Mustangs will return four players next season who earned post-season honors: sophomore Anthony Andrianarison, junior Tim Brooks, junior Antonio Randrianasolo and sophomore Elio Randrianasolo.