Senior night spoiled as Mason falls to JMU, 2-1 on Saturday night

Junior midfielder Julio Arjona controls the ball with a sliding tackle against JMU. (photo courtesy of Mason Athletics)
Junior midfielder Julio Arjona controls the ball with a sliding tackle against JMU. (photo courtesy of Mason Athletics)

In a primetime showdown between two Colonial Athletic Association rivals Saturday, the George Mason (10-5, 3-4) men’s soccer team fell to James Madison, 2-1 in front of a crowd of the 1,253 at George Mason Stadium.

Throughout the first half, the teams played two separate styles. The Patriots relied on set pieces, forcing four corner kicks, taking five shots. While the Dukes (6-5-3, 4-1-2) played an up-tempo game, creating chances with short one-touch passes between midfielders. However, neither team could break through on the score sheet.

The action intensified in the game’s 15th minute between Mason’s Julio Arjona and Madison’s Christian McLaughlin. The two midfielders collided near midfield and traded shoves before being separated by match official, Guy Goodrich.

The altercation was a sign of things to come.

Mason opened the scoring just 34 seconds into the second half. Sophomore forward Timi Mulgrew, who returned to action for the first time since Oct. 3 due to an injury, sprinted into Madison territory and sent a cross to junior Wesley Sever, a substitute from the 29th minute, who fired a shot past Duke goalkeeper, Kyle Morton, and Mason led 1-0.

The Dukes amped up the pressure following the goal.

In the 57th minute, those in attendance witnessed a bizarre scene when Madison was awarded an indirect free kick from the penalty spot. The entire Patriot team lined up next to their goalkeeper, Dustin Butcher, along the goal line. The free kick was deflected wide by the Patriot defense.

In the 63rd minute, tempers boiled over. Mason defender Paul Andrews and Madison’s McLaughlin exchanged violent shoves, knocking both players two the ground. As the teams congregated at the top of Mason’s eighteen-yard box and exchanged words, the officials intervened and issued yellow cards to Andrews, Arjona and McLaughlin.

“They’re a physical team and I think that’s what got us in trouble,” Butcher said. “We gave up a couple set pieces I think we didn’t have to and we let the physical battle get the best of us.”

Moments later the Dukes capitalized on a free kick to the left of the goal. Paul Wyatt, the leading Duke scorer, bent a shot around the Mason defense tying the game at 1-1.

“Honestly, I didn’t see the ball,” said Butcher, who has six clean sheets this season. “We’ve got to do a better job, we can’t give up that foul and then we have to get set up and win that ball, it’s on everybody to get that right.”

In the 75th minute the Dukes scored again, this time from the team’s second-leading goal scorer, Josh Grant. The Duke forward headed in a cross from Adam Bastidas, almost from the same spot as Wyatt’s free kick. Madison led 2-1 and never looked back.

The Dukes, who had not played since Oct. 14, dominated the second half, taking 11 of the team’s 14 shots.

“We got over run there a little and lost our legs a bit in the second half,” said Mason coach Greg Andrulis. “The difference may have been us playing on Wednesday and them not having a mid-week game.”

The loss was the fifth of the season for the Patriots. And four of their five losses have come against CAA foes.

Saturday’s game was the final home game for Mason. As part of senior night, the team’s five seniors, Andrews and Butcher, along with reserve goalkeeper Alec Constantine, midfielder John Gardner and forward Taylor Morgan, were honored prior to the start of the match.

“We’re so proud of the contributions from those guys, they mean so much to the program,” said Andrulis. “Individually they’re all unique but as a team they’ve made us better.”

During halftime, former men's soccer players Ken Bernstein, Mark Pulisic and Irad Young were recognized as the newest members of the Mason men’s soccer hall of fame. The three Mason alumni were inducted in a ceremony prior to the start of the game.

Before kickoff Saturday, members of the 1982 Mason men’s team were acknowledged in front the George Mason Stadium crowd. This season marks 30 years since the ’82 team set the bar as one of the best Patriot soccer teams in program history, finishing the season with a 19-2 record and ranking as high as sixth in the nation – the highest ranking ever for a Mason men’s team.

The match was the 40th all-time meeting between the two schools. Next up, the Patriots travel to Newark, Del. for a 7 p.m. clash against the conference-rival Blue Hens on Wednesday, Oct. 24, the first of three straight conference road games.

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