An epic region championship victory segued into a steady state quarterfinals win for George Mason High School’s boys soccer team, which will travel to Radford tomorrow to conclude the Class 2 state tournament.
Mason (20-1-1) has been hard-pressed to find adversity since an opening season tournament in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Luckily for the Mustangs, a season’s worth of challenges is pent up for the home stretch as they eye a second straight state title and seventh in the past decade. That started with a dramatic 1-0 downing of Staunton-based Robert E. Lee High School last Friday before taking care of business against the visiting Poquoson High School with a 3-0 victory. For Mason head coach Frank Spinello, it’s all about the Mustangs being the best version of themselves to retain the throne.
“It’s all in our hands,” Spinello said. “If we play to our potential, we should be in good shape.”
Last Friday’s game against Lee was the biggest hurdle Mason had to clear since…well…last year’s two-game stretch against Lee in the Region 2B championship and the state tournament. And the match lived up to the hype.
After an exciting first half that had everything but scoring, the Mustangs would draw blood in the 52nd minute. Senior Nick Wells’ corner kick from the right side bounced just past a Leemen defender and was caught by the outstretched foot of junior forward Zorhan Boston, who flung the ball inside the right post to break the tie.
The final 28 minutes of gametime were a bit bunker-ish for Mason, who endured more than a few terrifying moments to hold on to the win.
A pass back to senior defender Miles Lankford in the 58th minute was stabbed away by a Lee midfielder who went off to the races in a one-on-one with senior goalkeeper Ishan Bhalla. Before the Leemen could rev up for his shot though, Lankford hustled to correct his error and poked the ball out of play. In the 74th minute a Leemen forward evaded the backline and had a clear shot on Bhalla before skying his shot. The same player had a golden chance in the game’s final minute, but his rip was deflected by a Mustang leg to avert danger once again.
If Lee was Mason’s entree then Poquoson was definitely the dessert. The Mustangs controlled the flow throughout. Kryazhev drew a penalty in the box to set up sophomore midfielder Declan Quill’s penalty kick goal in the game’s opening minutes. Minutes later, Kryazhev set up Boston to make it a quick 2-0 game. Sophomore midfielder Jack Brown headed in a deflection in the 65th minute to secure the win for Mason.
Spinello reiterated that there are no more off days, so Mason needs to maintain the intensity they exhibited the past two games if they want to repeat.
The Mustangs will play Martinsville High School tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Radford University.