In the 35th minute of play, sophomore midfielder Tom Cooklin flipped the ball past the Patriots’ lone center back to graduate student midfielder Sandro Weber. Weber slotted it past the goalkeeper low and to the right to give the Colonials a 1–0 advantage.
The lone goal would be all the Colonials (3-1-2, 2-0-2 A-10) needed to beat the Patriots (0-5-3, 0-2-3 A-10) Saturday. GW is undefeated at home this season with three wins and a draw, while George Mason remains winless in both Atlantic 10 and nonconference play.
“It was a tough game, and we couldn’t find the insurance goals, that second or third goal, to maybe kill the game off,” head coach Craig Jones said. “But again, we just showed the character of the group and the grit and determination to see out this one-nil win.”
In their last meeting, the Colonials played the Patriots to a scoreless draw through two overtime periods. Both teams had three shots on goal, but neither side could break the stalemate.
GW bombarded the net with 14 shots, six of which were on goal. George Mason tallied nine shots and forced sophomore goalkeeper Justin Grady to make three saves to protect his clean sheet.
The Colonials had plenty of chances in the first half. In the sixth minute of play, Weber played in a low cross to Cooklin, who shot it low and wide to the left.
Just six minutes later, sophomore midfielder Elias Norris played in a cross to the middle of the Patriots’ box. Senior forward Oscar Haynes Brown fired at the center of the net, forcing a save by freshman goalkeeper Jackson Lee, who deflected it up against the crossbar before collecting the ball.
Weber hit a free kick over the bar earlier in the half before scoring the lone goal of the contest and his second of the season in the 35th minute.
“We have created chances in the last few games,” Weber said. “But we need to finish our chances a little more often. But there’s a great mentality in the team right now. Everybody is fighting for each other, and that’s probably the reason why we create so many chances. We have a lot of good quality players on the offense. The only thing is finishing chances eventually.”
The Colonials tried to add to their lead in the 39th minute when sophomore defender Ryan Cedeno took a shot from outside the 18-yard box, but the ball was batted down by Lee.
GW outshot George Mason 6-3 in the first half, placing two on goal. Grady wasn’t tested much in the first half, but he showed up in the 41st minute when a foul by freshman defender Aaron Kronenberg gave the Patriots a set piece near the corner flag. The cross settled at the feet of a Patriot attacker, forcing Grady to make a sliding kick save to clear the ball.
The Colonials had a brief scare when Patriot freshman forward Peter Kim made a move past Kronenberg, leaving graduate student defender Hrólfur Sveinsson alone in the back. Sveinsson collided with Kim, stopping the attack, but he earned a yellow card in the process. Kim was injured on the play and subbed off.
The Colonials kept up the pressure in the second half, outshooting the Patriots yet again 8-6. George Mason came at GW in the 58th minute when freshman midfielder Christopher Schray broke free at the top of the box. Grady made a diving save to snatch the ball from the air and preserve the Colonial lead.
“He’s just great for our team,” Weber said. “Our defensive line and our back four, center backs and outside backs, they just work hard. They don’t get enough recognition for keeping the clean sheet for us so often.”
Cooklin nearly sealed the game for the Colonials with a long-range try in the 65th minute, forcing Lee to make a diving save and concede a corner kick.
As the clock wound down, the Patriots hit a volley from the top of the box in the final 15 seconds. Grady made a leaping save, and the Colonials left the field unscathed.
“To see the rest of the game out without conceding is great,” Jones said. “So we’re making progress. We’re getting a little bit better every game. We’ve still got two regular season games to go. So, hopefully we can finish strong there and then put ourselves in a position to qualify for the A-10.”
The Colonials return to the field Wednesday at VCU for their second matchup of the season against the Rams. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.