- Special Sections
- Public Notices
SALEM –– A loss can come in a hundred different forms and be influenced a hundred different ways. Sometimes the other guys are just better.
George Mason once again proved itself to be the class of Group A boys’ soccer, shutting down Galax 4-0 in the state semifinals Saturday on the artificial surface of Salem High School’s Spartan Field. The Mustangs would hold off Stonewall Jackson 2-1 on Sunday in the state championship match at Radford University, adding another page to their already-impressive body of work.
George Mason has reached the state championship match eight times in the 15 years the Virginia High School League has conducted a state tournament for Group A soccer. Sunday’s was its sixth championship.
The Mustangs cruised through the semifinals by doing to Galax what the Maroon Tide had done to so many others throughout its 21-2 season, maintaining control of the ball with crisp passing, setting up shot after shot.
“Typically we’re the team that’s doing all the passing,” said Galax coach Troy Barkley. “It’s almost like a culture shock, you get to this level and somebody does it to you.”
Galax had won its first 20 matches by outscoring its opposition 122-12. The Maroon Tide defense didn’t give up more than a single goal in a match until its 12th outing, and hadn’t allowed more than two goals all season, posting 12 shutouts along the way.
The Mustangs went to work on that immediately.
Henry Darmstadter’s centering pass from some 30 yards on the left flank found Sinan Kokuuslu 10 yards out, and Kokuuslu’s header from there gave George Mason (21-3-1) the lead for good just three minutes in.
A Mustang corner kick 15 minutes later went uncleared, and Paul Darmstadter curled a 30-yard blast just under the crossbar for a 2-0 lead.
“You get to this level and give a team of that caliber a 20-minute head start, you’re going to have a hard time staying in the game,” Barkley said. “They’re a fantastic team, well conditioned, and they’re moving back and forth, and you have to play together. You can’t just send the ball up the field.”
George Mason wouldn’t score again until tacking on two goals in the final 10 minutes, but the Mustangs kept the pressure on the Maroon Tide on both ends of the field. Galax managed just two shots on goal in 80 minutes, one coming on a direct kick, while the Mustangs put 16 attempts within the frame. Maroon Tide keeper Meisel Solis and the back line of the Galax defense did a remarkable job of holding the Mustangs to the two goals in the first 70 minutes. Solis had 10 stops while his defenders kept two shots out of the net with kick saves.
Galax just wasn’t able to turn the field around in return.
“We’ve been able to counter-attack really well all year but they were prepared for that,” Barkley said. “They kept people in back of us, and their transition defense was so much better.”
“All season long our backs have been playing with composure,” George Mason coach Frank Spinello said. “Today I thought they stepped it up. They worked the ball around, with one or two touches. They made it real tough for Galax to get any easy looks.”
The Maroon Tide was playing for the first time on an artificial surface, which may have had an impact on the Tide’s ball control.
“It makes a difference in the way the ball bounces, and it speeds the game up a lot,” Barkley said. “My boys play a lot of indoor so I wasn’t too concerned about it, but it did seem to cause us some problems the first 10 minutes or so. I wouldn’t blame the loss on that by any stretch, but it may have cost us a little bit.”
Group A boys’ soccer state semifinal
at Spartan Field, Salem
George Mason 4, Galax 0
Halftime – George Mason 2, Galax 0. Scoring: GM – Kokuuslu 3’ (H.Darmstadter); GM – P.Darmstadter 18’ (unassisted); GM – Lawal 70’ (Kokuuslu); GM – H.Darmstadter 72’ (unassisted).
Shots (on goal) 24(16) 3(2)
Fouls 8 7
Corner kicks 10 1
Offsides 2 0
Yellow cards 0 2
Red cards 0 0
Saves 2 12
Yellow cards – Brar, M.Lopez (Gx).
Saves – Umerez (GM) 2, Solis (Gx) 10.