RADFORD, Va. — The Manassas Park boys’ soccer team opened the season with five straight wins and then narrowed its focus to district rival George Mason in game six, taking aim at the two-time defending state champion who would likely provide an indicator of the Cougars’ prospects.
Manassas Park lost that game, but over the course of the season the team gained confidence and eventually an understanding of its potential, especially outside the Bull Run District.
“We knew we were a talented group of players,” Manassas Park Coach Michael Martinez said. “And as talented a team as Mason is, that we could take them and do even more.”
On Saturday morning in the Virginia A championship, the Cougars scored three goals in a nine-minute span in the first half, then held on to defeat George Mason for the fourth time this season, capturing the program’s first state title with a 3-2 win at Radford University.
The Mustangs came out playing with a lot of pressure and nearly found the net twice. But Manassas Park (20-2-1) absorbed the pressure and began to press forward with more confidence as George Mason’s players tired.
Freshman midfielder Milton Gomez, who played the season on junior varsity, opened the scoring with a spectacular finish in the 29th minute.
Gomez took a pass from freshman Junior Flores near the right sideline, cut inside a defender to his left foot and curled a shot from nearly 35 yards to the far post.
Mario Pimentel doubled the lead when his attempted cross bounced through the box past his teammates, defenders and a frozen goalkeeper inside the far post, and less than a minute after that Allan Oliva blistered a shot to the near post to give the Cougars a 3-0 lead with 2 minutes 47 seconds left in the first half.
“The defender knew I was going to pass it so I faked [and] went to the middle,” Oliva said. “I saw the goalkeeper in the middle so I went near post and it went in.”
George Mason (16-7) showed its experience, and grit, in the second half.
The Mustangs cut the lead to two when Cole Hinson finished from the top of the box six minutes into the second half, and a penalty from Eion Oosterbaan’s with just more than 15 minutes left pulled the Mustangs within a goal.
“Just thinking we got to stay focused and stick to our game,” Martinez said. “They came back with that intensity so I was just telling my guys they have to stay focused. . . . Luckily we were able to hang on.”