A harrowing stretch to end the regular season concluded this week for George Mason High School’s varsity boys soccer team as a tight 2-0 victory over William Monroe High School was preceded by a 1-1 draw with Maggie Walker Governor’s School.
William Monroe and Mason (11-2-2) went the distance back on Apr. 18 when 80 minutes of regulation and two five-minute overtime periods saw neither team emerge victorious. The tie left a sour taste in the Mustangs’ mouth and made them reflect on the their capability of sustaining their championship pedigree later in the Spring. On Tuesday night, with a chance to right their wrongs from earlier in the season, Mason did so in a big way.
“It’s just ecstasy,” Mustang senior midfielder and man-of-the-match Connor Anderson said. “It’s always a tough time going down there, and then we come back to our place and get the huge win. It’s revenge, and it feels good.”
The intense emotion after the victory was exacerbated by the uphill climb that went into earning the win. Throughout a majority of the first half, Mason was off its game. William Monroe wasn’t disguising its strategy of cramming as many bodies as they could in front of their goal to stifle the Mustangs advances. It was the Dragons’ intent that Mason would eventually get impatient, become over-aggressive on offense and open themselves up to a counter. That plan worked perfectly for William Monroe exactly a year ago to the day in a surprise 1-0 victory over Mason, which ended the Mustangs two-plus year winning streak.
For most of the first half and the beginning of the second, it looked like the game was wading in that direction once more. Then, in the 54th minute, the Mustangs got a lucky bounce and capitalized. A throw-in from senior defender Nico Ferrara was bobbling between both teams until Anderson managed to toe the ball into some space and rip a low shot into the left post to break the tie and put Mason ahead. It wasn’t long after that Anderson was dictating the action again and found himself carrying the ball into the final third of the field when he passed to the open senior midfielder Olo Sembera Baracco who booted a shot to the right post and sealed the deal for the Mustangs.
“In the first half we played a little tense. We were working hard, but were giving them too much respect offensively instead of imposing our will,” Mustang head coach Frank Spinello said. “At halftime we decided to push more players forward and take our time with our passing and that made the difference.”
Last Thursday’s game against Maggie Walker was equally as trying. Mason struck first, taking a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. From there the Mustangs weathered a relentless Maggie Walker offensive until finally cracking less than 10 minutes before regulation ended to send the match to overtime. In the extra 10 minutes neither team could make the deciding goal, bringing the game to its eventual draw.
Mason has a bye for the first round of the Conference 35 tournament and will play their opponent at home next Tuesday, May 23.