George Mason's 2-1 loss to Clarke County in the Virginia A Bull Run title game last season was a bitter and memorable experience for Alex Fatovic.
Not only had the Mustangs' season ended with a loss, but the senior goalkeeper and four other George Mason players were issued one-game suspensions for vocal outbursts against officials. Those suspensions were served in a season-opening loss against Dominion. Since then, the Mustangs have used the memory of last year's final as a reminder to keep their cool this year.
"It's not going to happen again because we want to get our revenge on Clarke County, but we don't want to do it cheaply," said Fatovic, who will play for Long Island University next year. "We've learned from that experience, and right now we are on a roll."
George Mason has won 10 consecutive games, including Tuesday's 11-0 win over Riverheads in a Virginia A Region B quarterfinal. The Mustangs (14-2-1) had an impressive Bull Run regular season, going 9-0-1 in district play. Led by Fatovic and senior defender Peter Dittmar, the defense has posted 11 shutouts and yielded just 7 goals.
"The defense has had a huge impact, and they are important for us to be successful in the postseason," George Mason assistant Frank Spinello said. "I think we have developed a lot of confidence this season because we have played the best teams in [Group] A."
The Mustangs also have a potent offense, with senior forward Pete Hamill (16 goals, 12 assists going into Tuesday's game) and Dittmar, who holds the Mustangs single-season record in assists.
First-year Edison coach Scott Racek described the Eagles' mindset before losing to McLean, 3-0, in the Northern Region first round as "a feeling of invincibility."
That feeling had grown as the Eagles won eight consecutive games and went five weeks without a loss. That span included National District regular season and district tournament titles.
But the 3-0 loss to McLean was Edison's worst margin of defeat this season, ending the No. 2 Eagles' season at 13-4-1.
A week after the loss, Racek, who was voted both the National District and Northern Region coach of the year, recalled several of the reasons why this season was special.
"After having coached in college, I was concerned that I would not be able to coach to the level of technical skill and talent that I saw in college," said Racek, who took Edison's coaching position this season after having coached Catholic University's men's and women's programs for the past seven years. "But I was pleasantly surprised with the level of talent, the intensity these kids had and the way they love to play the game."
Two of Edison's top players -- goalkeeper Grant Ward and National District and Northern Region player of the year Esteban Maldonado -- are expected to graduate this spring. But the Eagles should have a talented midfielder in junior Nidahl Charfi back next year.