When George Mason senior goalkeeper Alex Fatovic blocked a Clarke County penalty kick in the 64th minute of the Virginia A championship game, it obviously was a turning point in the Mustangs' eventual 1-0 victory.
Fatovic blocked Gavin Kashani's penalty kick and sparked George Mason sophomore midfielder Gregg Curtin to finish the game with a goal in the 68th minute.
But at the center of the momentum-swinging save was something that might not have been so noticeable: George Mason's calm and collected response to a potentially game-changing call by the official.
More than a year ago, George Mason did not handle a similar penalty kick with as much restraint. Five players were ejected from a 2-1 loss to Clarke County in the Bull Run District championship, each receiving red cards after erupting in protest against the referee's decision.
Clarke County converted the penalty kick and the Mustangs' season ended early. The Eagles eventually advanced to the state finals where they lost to Nandua in penalty kicks.
"I think what happened in the 2003 season was a momentary lapse of judgment -- but it prepared us for what we needed to do this season. We weren't going to let any outside influences interfere," assistant coach Frank Spinello said. "When they called that penalty kick against us [in the state championship], we knew it was going to be a defining moment, and we wanted to do whatever it was that we could do to make it a positive."
Group A coaches voted Fatovic the state player of the year. Senior forward Peter Dittmar, who holds the school's single-season assist record with 24, was named to the Virginia A second team, as was leading scorer senior forward Peter Hamill (25 goals).