A good coach knows how to lead and inspire his team when the going gets tough. A great coach balances that immense responsibility with an ability to listen and learn from his players.
Luckily for the George Mason varsity boys lacrosse team, the Mustangs are led by a great coach with some strategically brilliant players on the sidelines.
The Mustangs picked up their fifth win of the season in as many tries on Tuesday night, beating division rival Loudoun for the first time in school history, 9-8. The victory was particularly sweet for the Mustangs, exacting revenge on Loudoun County for a first-round exit in the playoffs last season.
Trailing for the first time in the game late in the fourth quarter, 8-7, the Mustangs turned to their head coach for guidance. Coach Rich Costello, in his second year as Mustangs coach, delivered.
With less than three minutes in the game, the Mustangs took possession of the ball and began running a fast break. The players worked downfield towards Loudoun’s goal before senior Graham Coulton cut right in front of the goal and behind the defense. One sweet assist later, the game was tied at 8-8 with 2:46 left.
“We’ve been working on our fast breaks all year, but I’ve never seen something like that from them. That was the best play I’ve seen out of these guys all year,” said Costello.
After a quick turnover from Loudoun, the Mustangs found themselves surrounding the Raider goal once more, with a man-advantage thanks to a poorly-timed Loudoun slashing penalty. However, after running a number of their man-advantage plays and finding no open looks, Coach Costello called a time out. That's when junior Charlie Mann came to the rescue.
“Charlie goes, ‘Hey coach, none of these sets are working … why don’t we just go back to a normal formation?’ So we did, and I guess that worked out,” Costello said.
Did it ever. The Mustangs passed around the perimeter of the Loudoun defense, before feeding junior Josh Brew for the game-winning goal with 1:04 left in the game.
The Mustangs jumped out to an early 2-1 lead after one quarter when sophomore Caleb Barrett took over. Barrett scored two goals within five minutes of the second quarter, stretching the lead to 4-2. Loudoun never got closer than two goals until there was only 2:30 left in the third period.
The Raiders were not about to roll over and give the game to the Mustangs without a fight. After stagnation in scoring for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, both defenses began to tire out, much to the chagrin of the goalies of both teams. Loudoun scored with less than eight minutes left to tie the game at 6-6. After Mann retaliated with a quick goal, Loudoun scored two within two minutes, drawing the 8-7 lead, their first of the game.
“You know, we didn’t play so great in the first half. Our team defense was really off. We weren’t sliding where we should have been,” Costello said. “But we came out in the end, came together, and got a big win for this team.”
For a team looking to recover from a 6-7 season last year, revenge against the team that ended their season was a brilliant start. The Mustangs are now 5-0 this year, sending a strong message to all other teams in their district.
The Mustangs travel to Park View High School tonight (Thursday) at 7:30 p.m. for their next game, and will be traveling to Dominion High School on Monday.