Sports

Mason Soccer Takes 7th Straight Bull Run Title

Sports---Mason-boys-soccerThe George Mason High School varsity boys soccer team finished the regular season strong, routing Manassas Park 7-2 on Tuesday, May 18. With the win, the club notched its seventh consecutive Bull Run District first-place finish, and maintained its unbeaten overall record. The team improved to 12-0-4 on the year and has a Bull Run District record of 10-0-0.

Sports---Mason-boys-soccer

Senior Moment: After finishing league play with a 10-0 record and wrapping up another District regular season title, the senior-most Mustangs are all smiles. Front row, left to right: Andrew Arias, Nick Smirniotopoulos, Mark Kolev, Teddy Rueckert, Daniel Montano. Second row, left to right: Alex Casteuble, Erik Nelson, Josh Mason, Natan Lailari, Brendon Patierno, Will Ketchum. In front, manager Adeyianka Bowman-Johnson (Photo: News-Press)

The George Mason High School varsity boys soccer team finished the regular season strong, routing Manassas Park 7-2 on Tuesday, May 18. With the win, the club notched its seventh consecutive Bull Run District first-place finish, and maintained its unbeaten overall record. The team improved to 12-0-4 on the year and has a Bull Run District record of 10-0-0.

The club earned a bye in the regional quarterfinals (which will be played on Friday, May 21), and will host a semifinal game on Monday, May 24, against a team to be determined.

The Mustangs etched their 66th consecutive Bull Run District victory by employing tight defense, crisp passing and deft scoring to cruise past the Cougars on a cold spring night distinguished by the number of elbows thrown and scrums contested in the crease: fitting preparation for the post-season.

Early in the contest, George Mason got on the board when junior forward Jordan Robarge brought the ball down to the corner and sent it into the middle, where sophomore midfielder Eion Oosterbaan was able to get to a deflection and put it past goalkeeper Carlos Vasquez.

Then, in the 16th minute, Mason goalkeeper Tyler Back made a superb diving save on a shot taken close to the net, and the Mustangs immediately went into transition, using the save to produce a great chance on the other end, which was denied in a similar fashion.

George Mason didn’t start to open up some room in the contest until the second half, when the Mustangs tallied two goals in the first 10 minutes of play.

In the 47th minute, senior midfielder Alex Casteuble sent a beautiful pass through the needle to senior forward Nick Smirniotopoulos, who raced between two Manassas Park defenders in a mad dash for the net, pulling Vasquez to the left post and pushing a roller to the right for the goal.

Moments later, the Cougars were on their heels again. There was a scrum in front of their net and a subsequent errant shot off the goal. The rebound was gobbled up by the goalkeeper, Vasquez, but the defense could not clear, allowing Smirniotopoulos to deliver a pass to defender Patrick Rollo for the Mustangs’ third goal.

The Mustangs soon added another one to go up 4-0, but that lead was soon cut in half when Manassas Park scored on two penalty kicks in the span of five minutes.

With a little more than 17 minutes remaining in the game, Jordan Robarge and Alex Casteuble raced down the field toward the net. Robarge fired at the goal and was stoned, but Casteuble was there to clean it up and put the rebound in to give Mason an insurmountable 5-2 lead.

Senior forward Teddy Rueckert scored two goals in the final five minutes for good measure, giving his team its final margin of victory.

“We’re almost 100 percent pleased with our effort,” head coach Arthur Iwanicki commented after the game, as his team prepared to consume two large cakes baked by in honor of their league title.

“We were competitive in every game that we scheduled, and we have found a starting 11, plus a couple of subs, who have come together and become very coherent, which is very difficult for a high school team to do. They trust each other, and I’m really optimistic about the next three weeks.”

Midfielder Franky Andrianarison was integral to his team’s success against the Cougars, making several great stops in the defensive middle, using an array of slide tackles and demonstrating a generally gritty, physical style of play.

“We had worries at the beginning of the year, but now we’re looking forward to titles and it’s a must-win game from now on,” said Andrianarison.

Andrianarison said that his team’s early-season efforts against larger schools were crucial to its later dominance in league play.

“What really helped us was the first half of the season, when we played AAA teams, because we learned how to play with some teams that are greater than us,” the midfielder said.

Coach Iwanicki is not afraid of the pressure which might accompany the specific delineation of lofty goals. Of course, achievements which are rarefied, even historic for many programs are now perennial for the Mustangs.

“It’s nice to get to the (state) final four. That’s always our goal,” said the coach.

“We’re going to have a couple of tough matches along the way. Because of the seeding, we will have two away matches in the region and the region final will be away.

“We defend very well in the midfield and we don’t let the other team get very close to the goal,” Iwanicki said in response to a question about his team’s strengths heading into the postseason.

Mason’s opposition “may get shots, but they are relatively far away from goal.

“It’s been a good ride so far,” the coach added. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”