by Matt Delaney
Grinding out the home stretch against two competitive Conference 35 opponents, George Mason’s varsity soccer team nearly finished the regular season with an unblemished record back-to-back years after defeating Clarke County High School 2-0 before falling to William Monroe High School 1-0.
Clarke County and William Monroe have been the only legitimate challenges out of Conference 35 for Mason this spring. Ending the regular season against both is a tough, but favorable, draw for the Mustangs.
“Getting ready for the playoffs, you wanna play the best the Conference has to offer,” head coach Frank Spinello said. “Clarke [County] and William Monroe are by far the two biggest challenges on our schedule. They’re both quality teams that are well-coached.”
Clarke County was able to keep the Mustangs in check for most of the night. The Eagles speedy back line negated Mason’s thru passes and their physicality coerced the Mustangs into playing at a slower pace, while Clarke County’s junior goalkeeper Seth Mayo bailed his team out when all else failed.
Mason found the back of the net twice – once from senior midfielder Samsudeen Sallah in the first half and another from sophomore forward Kevin Valle on a rebound in the final minutes. But miscues squandered the team’s ownership of the ball and kept Clarke County alive throughout the game.
“We just didn’t frame the goal very well and didn’t give [Mayo] much resistance,” Spinello said. “[Mayo] had a really good match, but there were quite a few rebounds we should’ve been hungrier to jump on.”
Spinello also acknowledged his team’s over reliance on fast breaks to gain the upper hand and inability to take advantage of aggressive players, who were getting under the skin of the Mustangs late into the contest.
“We can’t let another team be physical and take us out of what we want to do and to get in our heads,” Spinello said.
The Mustangs got their first taste of defeat in over two years when they lost to William Monroe 1-0 down in Stanardsville.
The Dragons stumped an aggressive Mason offense with well-orchestrated counters that gave William Monroe a temporary numbers advantage when rushing the Mustangs goal. One successful break was all it took to beat junior goalkeeper Walker Hegadorn and Mason’s back line, while William Monroe’s defense absorbed the Mustangs surges throughout the remainder of the match.
Mason’s last loss came on Apr 8, 2014, when they lost to Manassas Park High School 2-1, also on the road.
Postseason play begins next week for the Mustangs with the Conference 35 tournament taking place at George Mason High School.