Howard University's soccer team, long the preeminent local squad, and greatly improved George Mason battled to a 0-0 tie yesterday at George Mason in a game that featured sterling play by both teams and some equally dismal refereeing that threatened to mar the players' efforts.

For Howard (4-2-2), this was a crucial game in its drive to receive an NCAA postseason bid. Although the tie was not devastating, it was a bitter disappointment to Howard Coach Lincoln Phillips, whose team is playing excellently after a lackluster beginning.

George Mason (7-1-2) is clearly going places under fifth-year Coach Dick Broad. The Patriots have already thrashed another area power, George Washington, and, going into the game, were ranked fourth in the Mid-Atlantic region, one spot ahead of Howard.

It was a most frustrating game for the Bison, who spent at least three-fourths of the game in the George Mason end of the field and outshot the home team, 17-5. The Patriots were not nearly as strong offensively, but an exceptionally solid and courageous defense thwarted Howard's frequent charges.

While acknowledging that George Mason had played well, Phillips was very upset with the officiating, contending a no-call near the George Mason goal in the 75th minute cost his team a certain goal.

Phillips had good reason to complain His leading scorer, center forward Sylvanus Oriakhi, had the ball near the goal mouth and dribbled to his right past a Patriot defender. When the George Mason player fell to the ground, the ball hit him on the arm. Phillips and the Howard bench screamed for a hand-ball call that would have given the Bison a penalty kick.

But the official nearest the ball waved for the teams to play on.Although both teams came close to scoring after the play. Howard was obviously upset.