In 16 consecutive Atlantic 10 matchups spanning the past two years, George Mason’s men’s soccer program failed to pick up a single win.
But on Wednesday night, in front of a home crowd, the Patriots overcame GW and took home their first conference victory since 2015.
The Colonials (4–5–1, 0–2 A-10) were unable to break through the compact George Mason defense as the Patriots (3–4, 1–0 A-10) capitalized on errors and battled to a 3–0 win – GW’s second consecutive defeat.
“They scored two goals in the first half off of mistakes by us,” head coach Craig Jones said. “You can’t do that at this level, you just can’t.”
Senior goalkeeper Thor Arne Höfs entered the match on the verge of breaking the program record for career shutouts, but the Patriots found the back of the net less than seven minutes into the contest. Höfs ended the night with five saves to his name.
Despite the loss, the Colonials outshot their opponents 13–11 on the night.
Entering the game, George Mason sported the worst defense in the A-10, giving up an average of 2.33 goals per game. With GW’s attack spearheaded by sophomore forward Oscar Haynes Brown, who is No. 4 in the nation for goal’s scored averaging 1.13 goals per game, it seemed that it could be a long night for George Mason senior goalkeeper Clark Gronek.
But the Patriots stifled GW for much of the game, frustrating their opponents and capitalizing on miscues.
Patriots junior forward Tunde Akinlosotu was a menace to the Colonials’ defense early and often in the first half, and he was rewarded for his efforts in the seventh minute. He fended off two GW defenders and managed to lift the ball over Höfs to put George Mason on the scoreboard for the first time in the night.
The Patriots’ offense was quiet for the rest of the first frame until redshirt senior forward Tolu Ibikunle scored on a solo effort with just three minutes remaining. Ibikunle carved through the entirety of the Colonials’ defense and placed his shot in the back of the net.
The Patriots entered halftime limiting GW to just two shots on goal as the Colonials struggled to get their forwards and midfield in sync.
“We got guys doing their own thing, and when guys start doing their own thing, the whole team dynamic breaks down,” Jones said. “That’s one of my biggest disappointments, the lack of team unity when things started to go south.”
The Colonials came out firing in the second half, upping the tempo of the game in an attempt to equalize the score. But GW still did not find a way through the Patriots’ backline while outshooting George Mason 9–5 in the second frame.
GW came closest to scoring about 10 minutes into the second half, when George Mason’s defenders failed to contain a set piece delivery into their penalty box.
Senior forward Dylan Lightbourn’s header back toward the net started a frantic scramble near the goal line, but the Colonials ultimately came up short.
As the team started to lose steam, George Mason started to find opportunities on the counterattack with the pace of Akinlosotu causing problems for GW’s backline.
The Patriots’ counterattacks paid dividends when George Mason broke away from a GW corner kick. Junior midfielder Ryan Mingachos found junior midfielder Grant Robinson inside GW’s penalty area. Robinson managed to sneak a low shot past Höfs to seal the victory for the Patriots in the 73rd minute.
“When you give away goals, two sloppy goals, you dig a hole and we couldn’t get out of it,” Jones said. “The guys have got to learn that pretty quickly or we’re going to be in real trouble.”
The Colonials are now 0–2 in A-10 play and are currently tied for last place in the conference. Despite getting off to a slow start in the conference, senior defender Alexy Boehm said he’s optimistic the team can get back on track.
“That’s the beauty of the A-10, anything can happen,” Boehm said. “We’ve all got to focus and step up.”
The Colonials are back in action at home Wednesday against St. Bonaventure at 2 p.m.
Richie Wright contributed reporting.