‘History was made’: Mustangs dethrone Bobcats, win states

Somewhere in between charging the field after the final whistle, beginning a deafening chant of “Ole ole” and holding their trophy up to the sky following a 1-0 win over Radford High School on Sunday afternoon, the reality of the moment finally set in to the George Mason High School boys soccer team.

They were state champions.gmhs-soccer

Somewhere in between charging the field after the final whistle, beginning a deafening chant of “Ole ole” and holding their trophy up to the sky following a 1-0 win over Radford High School on Sunday afternoon, the reality of the moment finally set in to the George Mason High School boys soccer team.


State champions: the George Mason boys and girls soccer teams. Following their own victory Sunday, the Mason girls joined onlookers cheering on the boys to its victory over reigning state champion Radford High. (Photo: Kim Silverman)

They were state champions.

“All I’m saying is we’re the champs,” senior co-captain Elio Randrianasolo said. “And It’s about time.”

After a lengthy hiatus from the Final Four — Mason had not had an appearance in the title game since 2005 — the Mustangs, one of the most storied programs in the state, finally seized an opportunity to knock off two-time defending champion Radford, preventing the Bobcats from becoming the first team ever to win three consecutive group A titles in a grueling and physical match beneath the blistering sun at Radford University’s Cupp Stadium.

“Deserving. That’s all I got,” senior co-captain Anthony Andrianarison said when asked what word described the feeling. “We worked so hard for four years, three years to get here at this point. All the awards, all the trophies before didn’t mean anything until I got this right now.”

In a title contest between two squads that had not been shutout all season, something had to give. Fortunately for the Mustangs, the deciding blow came in the form of junior Nick Smirniotopolous After over one half of near deadlocked soccer, Smirniotopolous delivered the winner in the 44th minute.

Smirniotopolous found a seam in the Bobcat defense, gathering a through ball from Jordan Robarge and navigating his way into the box. Once senior keeper Jake Glesen made a move to protect the near post, Smirniotopolous launched a shot into the lower right 90 that found the back of the net.

“When it hit the back of the net, I was so psyched,” Smirniotopolous said. “We were kind of dominating them and I knew that we needed that goal to give us that extra motivation. We got knocked out last year on a really unlucky goal [against King William in the state quarterfinals], so I think the unluckiness accumulated and we finally got lucky. It was an overall great effort by the whole team and a true measure of heart.”

Meanwhile, the Mason defense rendered a powerful Bobcat offense, one that had scored 100 goals in its first 21 games this year, almost completely ineffective. Radford had its only shot on goal in the second half come in the 67th minute and was stifled after scoring an aggregate 12 goals in its two state tournament games this year.

The Bobcats had many open looks at the goal, namely off free kicks outside the 18. They eventually sent everyone past midfield in the final 10 minutes in search of the tying tally. Mason sophomore Tyler Back, though, made several key saves whenever Radford made it into the box.

“That’s my man right there, he was man of the game,” Randrianasolo said of Back. “He saved us so many shots.”

“He stepped up not just the state tournament, but the whole season,” Andrianarison added. “He kept us in the game in the most crucial times. He’s only a sophomore, but he knew what happened last year and he learned from that. He’s a big guy now.”

Radford senior Lukas Findley, who will head to Army next year after totaling 101 career goals, was shut down on the offensive end by Andrianarison and a host of Mason defenders. Findley was unable to get a shot on goal off the entire afternoon.

“We’ve had times where we had a hard time putting it in the net and we knew that today wouldn’t be a good day for that to occur, but it happened,” Radford coach Greg Wade said. “We kicked many a ball unattested out of bounds, which I thought you couldn’t do on this field. It wasn’t our day.”

“[Findley’s] a good player, but we shut him down, especially Anthony and Andrew Arias,” Randrianasolo added. “He’s a great player, but we put pressure on him and he didn’t do that much.”

Junior Alex Casteuble and Randrianasolo came up big, winning nearly every 50-50 balls that sailed into the middle of the field. This allowed the Mustangs to play possession ball, staving off the relentless attack of the Bobcats offense.

“Alex winning those 50-50 balls made them back away from him and keep the ball away from them,” Andrianarison said. “Elio, a little kid, won balls against a 6-3 or 6-4 guy, so that just sends a message.”

A scary moment occurred in the 67th minute, when Radford’s Kendall Akers had to be wheeled off in a stretcher after taking a hit and collapsing to the ground. After being taken to the hospital, he is expected to make a full recovery.

Prior to the game, the Bobcats gave Mason’s players all of the extra motivation they needed to stay sharp and focused. The Mustang coaches passed around copies of a Roanoke Times article previewing the game to their team, in which members of Radford’s squad were quoted as saying that they would defeat Mason by at least four goals. The seemingly overconfident Bobcats, though, came out sluggish against a determined Mustang squad.

“We all saw the papers. They were too confident, if you saw the newspapers, they were talking about how they were going to beat us 4-0,” Randrianasolo said. “I don’t think they even warmed up. We deserved to win because we wanted it more than they did. We came out strong and we destroyed them.”

After the Mustangs stopped Radford short of making history, it was their turn to celebrate the win. Senior Jack Cashin, after taking rounds of pictures with the trophies, walked adjacent to the field and yelled to his coach.

“Hey Coach Greiner,” Cashin said to Mason’s junior varsity coach. “Was history made? Yeah. I believe it was made.”