by Matt Delaney
All year George Mason High School’s varsity boys soccer team has been one step ahead of their opponents and that was clear throughout Virginia High School League’s 2A state championship tournament when the Mustangs blanked Graham High School 7-0 in the semifinal and downed Bruton High School 6-1 in the final.
The Mustangs demonstrated the versatility of their game during the tournament. Against Graham, Mason held a solid 2-0 lead at the half, but it was a four goal barrage from the 49th through the 53rd minute that dismantled the G-Men’s morale and made the remaining minutes a formality.
In their second match against Bruton in eight days, the Mustangs were able to undercut the aggressive Panthers by capitalizing on most of their scoring chances.
Senior forwards Elliot Mercado and Donal Reyes de Leon led team tournament scoring with five and four goals, respectively. Remaining goals were scored by senior midfielders Samsudeen Sallah and Grant Goodwin and sophomore midfielder Kevin Valle.
Man of the match honors in the state final went to sophomore defender Dan Sangiovanni when he managed a two goal swing by scoring in the sixth minute and saving an open-net goal in the 14th minute.
“Anybody who’s in my shoes would do the same thing,” Sangiovanni said. “Everybody wants to give something to the other person. We play as one, we don’t play as 11 individual men, and we’re all out there for each other.”
Unity has made Mason a force to be reckoned in the 2A division. Of the six goals they’ve conceded all season, only three came from other 2A teams. All three goals came in either the region or state tournament, and two of the three came after the Mustangs had already built winning margins.
“Everyday we come to practice and we want to outdo each other, outdo what we did the day before and improve on the week before,” head coach Frank Spinello said. “Our guys just come to battle every single day, whether it’s practice, a game, team meeting. We’re always prepared.”
The 2016 state title is special for many reasons. Goodwin finishes as the first male soccer player in Virginia High School League’s history to win a state title in all four years of high school while unsung heroes like junior striker-turned defender Wesley Quill helped lead the Mustangs to another championship by volunteering his services to a weaker back line.
Though for Sangiovanni, like many others on Mason’s roster, this season’s title run is special since it’s the first one they’ve experienced.
“It feels great doing all this work and ending up winning [the state championship].” Sangiovanni said.