Sports

‘History Was Made’: Mustangs Dethrone Bobcats, Win States

RADFORD, Va. — In between charging the field after the final whistle, beginning a deafening chant of “Olé, olé” and holding up the trophy following a 1-0 win over Radford High School Sunday afternoon, reality finally set in for the George Mason High School boys soccer team:

They were state champions. boyssoccerfront915

RADFORD, Va. — In between charging the field after the final whistle, beginning a deafening chant of “Olé, olé” and holding up the trophy following a 1-0 win over Radford High School Sunday afternoon, reality finally set in for the George Mason High School boys soccer team:

They were state champions.

boyssoccerfront915

(Photo: News-Press)

“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 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 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. 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 dominating them and I knew that we needed that goal to give us 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.”

The Mason defense rendered a powerful Bobcat offense, one that had scored 100 goals in its first 21 games this year, almost completely ineffective.

State-Championships-026

(Photo: News-Press)

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 previous two state tournament games. 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.

“He stepped up not just the state tournament, but the whole season,” Andrianarison said. “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 [junior] Andrew Arias,” Randrianasolo added. “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 won balls against a 6-3 or 6-4 guy, so that just sends a message.”

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

State-Championships-053

(Photo: News-Press)

“We all saw the papers. They were too confident. They were talking about how they were going to beat us 4-0,” Randrianasolo said, referring to Radford’s local papers.

“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 a rain delay pushed its semifinal game back to Saturday, Mason eked out a 1-0 win over Stonewall Jackson, thanks in large part to a penalty kick in the 64th minute by Arias.

Smirniotopolous received a through-ball from senior Thomas Kim, dancing towards the goal until he was tripped up by a General defender, setting up Arias’ heroics and helping send the Mustangs to the championship game.

“I knew it was going to go in,” Andrianarison said about Arias’ goal. “I don’t think he’s ever missed a PK in practice. Elio [Randrianasolo] and I were talking about it before, who would take the PK, and we only had one guy in mind: Arias.”

Senior Jack Cashin, after taking rounds of pictures with the trophies, walked adjacent to the field near his coach

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

{gallery}915/sports/boyssoccer/{/gallery}

(Photos: News-Press)