by Liz Lizama
In its final rankings of the spring season released this week, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America ranked George Mason High School’s boys varsity soccer team number 1 in Region 1 and number 2 in the nation.
The committee considers a number of factors to determine its rankings, which included overall win-loss percentage, strength of schedule, traditional strength of the league, interregional and state playoff results and individual player successes.
Mason notched its third consecutive Virginia 2A state title this season – its eighth overall. The undefeated Mustangs finished with a 160-3 goal differential over its opponents this year and seven All-State players, including State Player of the Year junior forward Elliot Mercado.
While the team saw many successes this season, head coach Frank Spinello’s focus was always to keep improving.
“We have long-term goals, but our main purpose is to get a little bit better every week so that we are peaking in the playoffs,” he said. “The biggest challenges were to keep motivation high and keep practices intense.”
Mercado said those practices were a major factor in building up the team.
“I truly believe that we would play against the best players during practice,” said Mercado.
“This led to everyone being game ready and never being caught off guard by an opposing team.”
It’s safe to say Spinello’s approach at practice worked out well given the team’s record-breaking 26-0 season. This also marks the first time in history Mason earns a spot on the NSCAA rankings.
“We have had great teams in the past that helped us prepare for this season,” said Spinello. “This year’s team wanted to make history and be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest teams that we have had at Mason. I think they did that.”
Referring to some of Mason’s all-time top players like Alex Fatovic (2004), Ben Griffin (2002), Anthony Andrianarison (2009), Nick Smirniotopoulos (2010) and Paul Darmstadter (2014), Spinello said they each helped set the table for this team.
“All of those teams had something special – offense, defense, big plays, team play or focus – but this year’s team put all the ingredients together: the stingiest defense, most potent offense and best leaders we have ever had so far,” said Spinello. “Our midfielders have been special all year. They are often the ones overlooked but are the players that make everything transition well and run smoothly.”
Mercado said the senior leadership contributed to much of the team’s success this year. “I think with having so many seniors on the team and them knowing what is needed that really helped my mentality and the entire team’s mentality.”
While the team is losing nine graduating seniors, Mercado will return next year for his senior year. “I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish next year,” he said.