Winning back-to-back championships is difficult. Winning three straight? A whole other ball game.
Winning back-to-back championships is difficult.
Winning three straight? A whole other ball game.
Just ask the George Mason High School boys soccer team.
The Mustangs came up just short of winning their third consecutive Virginia High School League Group A title, losing to rival Manassas Park 3-2 in the finals at Radford University on Saturday.
“It was a match I felt we got the best of,” said Mason head coach Frank Spinello. “I felt we had the control of the pace of the match and possession. There was just a 10-minute period towards the end of the first half where we relaxed a little it and got off guard and they scored three quick goals on us.”
After Manassas Park went up 3-0 heading into half time, the Mustangs rallied. Cole Hinson and Eion Oosterbaan each connected with goals, but the Mason comeback ran out of clock.
This was the fifth time that Manassas Park and Mason faced each other this season. In addition to the two regular season matches, the schools locked horns in the Bull Run District, Region B and Group A finals.
The Mustangs lost four of those five meetings.
“It kind of goes both ways,” Spinello said. “On one hand, it’s hard to get up for the same team over and over. But having played them before and not coming out on the other end, I think it gave us a little bit of extra motivation and actually helped us play a little bit harder.”
Mason finishes the season 17-7-1. After starting the year 1-3-1, the Mustangs went 16-4 the rest of the way. The only losses the team suffered during the last 20 matches came at the hands of Manassas Park.
“They seized their chances and made the best of them,” Spinello said. “I thought all the games except one were fairly even. Even the one that we won could have gone either way. It’s just who got the better of the break and took advantage of their opportunities. Manassas Park seemed up to the task this year the last four times.”
Mason defeated Galax 8-0 in the state semifinals on Friday.
“It’s a good and bad thing,” Spinello said. “It’s bad in the sense that it didn’t give us a real big challenge the day before the final .At the same time, it was hot out there and it gave an opportunity to use our entire roster and get everybody in the game and rest a few players. I actually though it was a little bit advantageous.”
Mason felt the bullseye that only two-time defending champs can realize.
“When you win one championship, everybody guns for you,” Spinello said. “You’re the one game on everybody’s schedule that they circle and that’s the one game they want to win . You win two in a row, that circle gets highlighted a bit more. You see the best everybody has to offer every time you play.”
“I’ve learned more about this team in the loss than I would have if we had won,” Spinello added. “The only thing we ever asked from them, championships are nice, but the one thing we really look for is just for the team to go out there and give everything they had and have no regrets, and I think they did that.”