Trailing 1-0 at the half, the George Mason High School boys varsity soccer team scored a pair of second-half goals to defeat Rappahannock 2-1 on Tuesday night, securing a victory that was vital to the Mustangs’ hopes of capturing the Bull Run District regular season title for a third-straight season.
Failing to muster much of an attack and with Rappahannock owning both the lead and the momentum early in the second half, a precision blast off the right foot of junior Wesley Frank curled out of the reach of a diving Rappahannock keeper and into the upper left corner of the net, igniting a jubilant celebration and reinvigorating a frustrated Mason team.
The tying goal was the first of a flurry of Mustang scoring opportunities that followed in the next 10 minutes, before Anthony Andrianarison headed a long free kick by junior midfielder Matt Gresko into the goal for the go-ahead score with 21:44 remaining in the match.
Mason senior forward Eddie Huber created the opportunity when he tracked down a long pass down the right sideline and beat his defender, forcing the Rappahannock player to take him down with a slide tackle from behind. The play earned the Panther defender a yellow card and gave the Mustangs the free kick that led to the eventual game-winning goal.
Huber also provided the spark for the Mustangs’ first goal in a comparable fashion. Nine minutes into the second half, Huber similarly raced down the right sideline with the ball before crossing it to the top of the 18-yard box where teammate Antonio Randrianasolo played a long pass to Frank who was trailing the play. Frank then unleashed his pinpoint shot from about 40 yards out, abetted by a modest tailwind that affected nearly every ball that took to the air Tuesday night.
The pair of goals was a rapid reversal from what had, to that point, been a trying game for the Mustangs. The Panthers broke from the gates quickly, counterattacking Mason’s rushes by placing long, accurate passes at the feet of their forwards. At the seven-minute mark, one such instance paid dividends when Rappahannock’s Alex Ramey collected the lead pass, beat the Mason defense to the top of the box and slipped a shot under charging goaltender Eric Casteuble.
Though he did not allow another goal, Casteuble’s half did not improve. Six minutes after the Rappahannock score, Casteuble again charged out to the top of the box to try to secure a long pass, knocking it aside only to be leveled by an onrushing Panther player. Casteuble dropped to the ground and remained there for about five minutes as Mason’s athletic trainer Vicki Gallaher and several coaches attended to him. Walking off the field with assistance, Casteuble was replaced by Mason junior Andres Ramos. Ramos turned aside a strong shot from 40-yards out that was tracking towards the top of the net before Casteuble returned to the game with six minutes remaining in the half.
Both Ramos and Casteuble finished the game with three saves.
As the half wound down, the Mason frustrations began to boil over, with Andrianarison picking up a yellow card with 10 minutes left.
“At the half I just told the team they needed to calm down,” Mason assistant coach Frank Spinello said. “As soon as [Rappahannock] scored we started getting tense and blaming the refs. It just magnified everything.”
“We wanted to make sure we defended better as they entered the attacking third,” Head Coach Art Iwanicki added. “We put more pressure on their players 30-40 yards from the goal and we were more successful.”
With the minor tweaks defensively in the second half, Mason regained its composure, and the lead, though late in the game they lost midfielder Elio Randrianasolo to a red card for taking a swing at an opposing player. Playing down a man, the Mustangs managed to fend of a fierce final flurry, with Casteuble turning a few shots away in the waning minutes of the game.
The win gives the Mustangs control of the District with a mark of 4-0-1. More importantly, it gives them the tie breaker against Rappahannock after the two teams played to a draw during their first meeting this season. The Panthers figure to be the Mustangs’ chief competition for the top spot, along with Clarke County.
Prior to the win over Rappahannock, the Mustangs breezed by Manassas Park last Friday by the lopsided margin of 9-0. Elio Randrianasolo scored three consecutive goals, while Adrianarison scored a pair to lead the scoring ledger. Jack Settje, John Brooks, Antonio Randrianasolo and Daniel Serrano also found the back of the net. Eric Casteuble recorded two saves to earn the shutout.
Mason now turns its attention to a Friday match against Strasburg on the road before returning home for a Tuesday game against Madison County.