Sports

Mason Boys Repeat as Soccer State Champs

Assistant Coach Frank Spinello told the News-Press this week that although defense was the key to the George Mason High School boys’ soccer team’s second consecutive Virginia Group A state championship, a 2-1 victory over Radford on Sunday, Nick Smirniotopoulos “should be a shoe-in” for State Player of the Year when the announcement is made in a few weeks.

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THE GEORGE MASON HIGH SCHOOL boys soccer team celebrates its second straight state title Sunday, defeating Radford, 2-1. (Photo Courtesy: Tommy Ruckert)

Assistant Coach Frank Spinello told the News-Press this week that although defense was the key to the George Mason High School boys’ soccer team’s second consecutive Virginia Group A state championship, a 2-1 victory over Radford on Sunday, Nick Smirniotopoulos “should be a shoe-in” for State Player of the Year when the announcement is made in a few weeks.

Named with teammates Alex Casteuble, Andrew Arias, Patrick Rollo and Tyler Back to the All-State team, Smirniotopoulos set single-season school records for goals in a season (36), assists in a season (32) and points in a season (104). The number led all high school teams, regardless of size, in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, and he was named to the All-Met First Team by the Washington Post.

Finishing with a record of 19-1-3, Head Coach Arthur Iwanicki’s team wound up ranked fourth overall in the Post‘s high school team rankings, the only non-AAA-sized school in the Top 10.

Not only did the team win back-to-back state titles for the first time ever, it was won five of the last 11 state titles, and made it to the finals a sixth time.

Smirniotopoulos scored late in the first half Sunday to give Mason a lead that it never relinquished during a grueling second half defensive struggle against Radford that did not ease up until Arias hit a left-footed shot in the 79th minute for a 2-0 lead. A final penalty shot goal by Radford in the following minute was not enough to make up the difference.

 

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MASON All-MEt 1st team player Nick Smirniotopoulos is a “shoe-in” for State Player of the Year said Mustang Assistant Coach Frank Spinello. (Photo Courtesy: Tracy Black)

Radford, which had nailed 11 goals in its two previous wins en route to the championship game, could not penetrate the strong defense of Mason, led by Ze’ev Lailari, getting a lot of playing time due to an injury to Brendan Fribley.

 

In Mason’s first goal, Erik Nelson was credited with the assist when he made a tackle in the middle defensive third, dribbled by a defender, leaped over another sliding defender with the ball, and placed a perfectly-time pass to Smirniotopoulos, who calmly dribbed past the last defender to place the scoring shot past the goal keeper into the side netting was before the half.

A goal by Arias in the 53rd minute was disallowed by a linesman who ruled interference with the goalkeeper, altough Coach Spinello claimed that game film shows it was a bad call.

But Mason’s defense prevented Radford’s powerful offense from getting any chances other than long balls and counterattacks, and Tyler Back was credited with one game-changing save and Jordan Robarge played all 80 minutes despite the heat, as defense took over the match. Patrick Rollo shut out Radford’s regional player of the year, and Franky Andrianarison and Natan Lailari shut down attacks early. Eion Oosterbaan helped control the tempo, and Alex Casteuble won almost every 50/50 ball late in the game.

In Arias’ decisive goal at the end, he changed directions three times waiting for the goal keeper to commit, and when the keeper made his move, Arias slotted the left-footed shot for the goal.

In an easy 7-0 romp over John Battle in the semifinal game on Friday, Smirniotopoulos scored two goals and three assists and Arias had three goals to lead Mason. Other goals were scored by Oosterbaan and Casteuble. Led by Rollo, the Mason defense did not allow a single shot on goal.

In addition to the remarkable season numbers for Sminiotopoulos, Arias was the region’s fifth leading goal scorer with 23, Oosterbaan was sixth and Alex Casteuble ninth in the region with 14 and 12 assists, and Back fourth in saves with 96.

More action from the boys state title game (Photos: Tracy Black):

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