by Matt Delaney
George Mason’s varsity boys soccer team bounced back after their upsetting loss to William Monroe High School last week with a triumphant 11-0 victory over Strasburg High School in the Conference 35 tournament semifinals Tuesday night.
The loss to William Monroe on May 17 ended a two year, 56-game winning streak for Mason’s boys team, who’d kept that record through two state title runs and a nearly perfect 2016 regular season. Facing defeat for the first time in a long time might have one thinking Mason could be fractured from outcome, but instead it’s just the opposite.
“We just couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the goal, [but] I was proud of them,” head coach Frank Spinello said. “I thought we fought the whole game. We didn’t get the result that we wanted, but I saw a spark in our team and the drive to win the matches. That is more valuable than winning or losing a game.”
It was clear the loss hadn’t exposed Mason as fragile-minded winners, but instead hungry competitors who were open to a little adversity. Unfortunately for Strasburg, they squared off against the Mustangs in arguably their most inspired match of the season.
Senior midfielder Grant Goodwin rocketed a ball past Strasburg’s goalkeeper five minutes in, beginning the landslide of goals to follow. Senior midfielder Samsudeen Sallah found junior midfielder Olo Sembera Baracco moments later for another Mason goal, and Goodwin’s second goal was the spitting image of his first, giving the Mustangs a 3-0 lead under ten minutes in.
Senior forwards Elliot Mercado and Donal Reyes de Leon linked up for the game’s fourth and sixth goals with an unassisted goal by Mercado falling in between. Goodwin found Mercado for another goal off a free kick, while Sallah, Mercado, junior forward Riley Marcus and sophomore reinforcement Carlos Mercado rounded out the scoring.
Following the win over Clarke County High School on May 13, Spinello expressed displeasure with his team’s one-dimensional offensive approach. Losing to William Monroe forced the team to acknowledge that tendency, and is also why they played their eclectic offensive game against Strasburg on Tuesday.
“It was a wake up call that we’re not invincible and we need to step up our play if we’re gonna go to states again,” Goodwin said. “Tonight we kinda mixed it up. We were playing balls wide, crossing it, playing quicker. We definitely worked on that in practice the past week.” Mason will compete for the Conference 35 title against Central High School on Thursday at home.