George Mason High School’s boys soccer team’s season full of relative ease hit some rough patches this week when it suffered its first loss of the year to Staunton-based Robert E. Lee High School in the regional championship before getting a hard-fought road victory over Maggie Walker Governor’s School in the Class 2 State quarterfinal.
Lee is a familiar foe to the Mustangs (16-1-1). In last year’s regional home opener, Lee knocked Mason out of the playoffs with a 1-0 decision and ended a run of four-straight state titles for the Falls Church program.
Now, after outscoring the Mustangs 4-0 aggregate in their previous two meetings, the Leemen are feeling confident. The team’s head coach Mike Vanhoy told The News Leader that he believes Mason has only been shut out twice in the past eight years. The Leemen were responsible for both occasions.
Mason head coach Frank Spinello didn’t fact-check that comment, but did acknowledge Lee’s skill while noting some room for improvement on his end.
“Lee is a very good team,” Spinello said. “We fought hard but didn’t play our best game. It was probably my fault for overloading them with too much scouting information instead of allowing us to play free and loose like we have done all season.”
The game itself was tight, but Lee’s opportunism ultimately won out. Sophomore forward Zorhan Boston ripped a ball off the crossbar within the first five minutes and senior midfielder Carlos Mercado’s goal off freshman midfielder Declan Quill’s throw-in in the 15th minute was waved off due to an infraction on the ball’s entry. Mason struggled to generate quality looks from that point on. Meanwhile, Lee scored off set plays with a header on a free kick in the 10th minute and a corner kick in the 25th minute. A broken play led to the Leemen’s final goal in the 42nd minute and the game’s final 3-0.
The sting of that June 1 loss couldn’t linger for long as the Mustangs had to rally for an elimination game at Maggie Walker Tuesday night.
Early on Mason was winning the possession battle and dictating the flow of the game, but the Dragons were still outshooting the Mustangs. That was until the 29th minute when sophomore midfielder Cole Hellert won a ball on the right sideline and played it up to junior midfielder Nick Wells, who set up Boston’s ensuing goal. It was the game’s only tally.
“[Boston] was composed in front of the net as he has been all season. It is amazing to see his progress since he has been a defensive player his entire career until this season,” Spinello continued. “Coach Greiner and I saw an explosiveness in his game that we thought would translate well to playing striker. He has responded beyond our expectations and scored many key goals for us.”
The Mustangs back line of juniors Bryan Villegas and Miles Lankford and senior Liam Fribley held strong throughout a tense second half and senior goalkeeper Ethan Morse bailed out Mason with a critical save in the 60th minute to hold the slim lead.
Next up is a rematch with Lee at Radford for the state semifinal game on Friday.