Possibly the best thing that could have happened to George Mason's soccer team was its 3-2 loss at home to Virginia two weeks ago in the final of the Virginia intercollegiate tournament. When the two teams met again Sunday in Charlottesville in the second round of the NCAA playoffs, the Patriots knew they had the advantage.
"I don't think Virginia took us too lightly," said George Mason Coach Richard Broad, "but they definitely entered the game feeling very comfortable."
The seventh-ranked Cavaliers definitely were not comfortable with the final score. The Patriots made a goal by Adolfo Alvarez at 48:08 stand up for a 1-0 victory over Virginia.
George Mason will travel to Duke to play the top-ranked Blue Devils Sunday in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m.
The 10th-ranked Patriots (19-1-0), who have been ranked as high as seventh this season, played a defensive game against Virginia. The Cavaliers held a 25-6 advantage in shots, and swarmed around George Mason's goal in the second half. But Broad insists his team wasn't satisfied with the single goal.
"I didn't tell them to sit on the lead," he said. "Until we had scored, it was a very even game. We had a one-goal lead the last time we played, and it hurt us. But this time we beat them and did it in their own park."
The victory over Virginia, which has been ranked as high as third this season, gave rise to speculation that Mason would be complacent against Duke. The Patriots have the best winning percentage of any team in the top 20, but Virginia is the only nationally ranked team they have faced this season.
"I don't think we'd ever take Duke too lightly," said Alvarez, who has four goals this season. "We're hungry. This team is so high right now, and I think we can beat Duke. I don't see us losing to anybody right now."
Broad said, "I told the players it was a great win over Virginia, and let them get their energy out. All year long, we've been hearing we're just the second-best team in the region (behind the Cavaliers). I think this win showed we have a fine team."
Although Broad claims Duke has "little things we may be able to go at," he is not planning any major changes for the game. Both teams work the ball with short passes and have great speed at the wing positions. The Blue Devils (20-0-2) are led by freshman Tom Kain (12 goals, 18 assists) and Bob Jenkins (16 goals) up front. Joe Ulrich and Whitman High School graduate Mike Jeffries anchor the back line.
George Mason has outscored its opponents, 55-7, this season, and is led by junior forward Colin Kerr (15 goals), freshmen Mike Jung (eight) and Fred Thompson (six). Kerr has nine game-winning goals.
Defensively, goalkeeper Ken Bernstein has 15 shutouts in 19 games. He has made 59 saves, and his 0.39 goals-against average leads the region. Defenders Scott Shiffert and Mike Reynolds also have played very well in the playoffs.