John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

The George Mason University men’s soccer team came into the game against the Maryland Terrapins with little to prove. Maryland was ranked third in the nation and needed to prove their season after a loss to their rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels.

In the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the Mason Patriots lost 2-0 to Maryland. The appearance was the farthest the Patriots went into the postseason since 1996, and the loss snapped an eight-game winning streak. The Terrapins went on to win the national championship by defeating North Carolina.

Mason came out of the gate with their usual high-energy offense and even though the ball possession was fairly even, junior forward Victor Freeman shocked the Terrapins. Freeman charged the goal and, staring down Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Zac MacMath, deposited the ball into the right corner.

“We’ve been playing better lately. I think the second half of Longwood got us off on the right foot. We’d been very lethargic up to that game,” said Head Coach Greg Andrulis of his team’s potent high-energy offense.

Maryland continued their comparatively slow level of play during the first half of the game. However, Mason stayed fierce. As the game went on, sophomore midfielder Ryan Gracia made a play for the ball and found a Maryland player in his way. Never slowing down, Gracia found himself with a red card ejection for his level of play.

“Our guys . . . had to deal with some adversity with the red card the first half,” said Andrulis of Gracia’s play.

As time dwindled in the first half, Maryland gained a sense of urgency as the scoreboard stared them in the face: Mason 1, Maryland 0.

Giving a full-strength approach, Maryland charged the field and came within mere inches of a goal. Senior goalkeeper Sean Kelley’s quick reactions saved a goal in the middle of an onslaught of defenders with 10 seconds left and gave Mason the hope they needed going into the second half.

Going into the game, Maryland had gone 0-1-1 when their opponents scored first, as was the case Tuesday night.

In the second half, the Patriots came in with even higher energy and lit up the field as sophomore forward Draymond Washington received the ball from Freeman and put the second goal of the game in, past a diving MacMath.

“I just go along with [the team], I expect high of myself . . . and try to live up to it,” said Freeman of his high level of play, making goals and assists in his first two games.

The tables were turned at that moment. The score from the playoff game in November was turned to the Patriots favor. The press box began to shake with the excitement of the 2,781 cheering, stomping fans below.

Maryland then began to focus on ball control after they realized the Patriots’ potent offense. At the 31-minute mark, Kelley made an absolutely spectacular play, leaping high into the air to save a sure goal. This proved to be a common concept as the game went on, as Kelley made plays by diving and leaping for the rest of the night, making a save to end the game for the win.

“This is the third time I’ve played them and I’ve always walked away thinking they were better. We like to win at home at all cost, so many things are coming together for us,” said Kelley of the Patriots’ unlikely win.

After the win, the players and coaches did not focus on the win for long, quickly turning their attention to the Saturday game against the William & Mary Tribe.

“It will be tough to get a bid without winning the conference. We need to take care of [the conference games],” said Kelley of the upcoming game.

The Patriots were scheduled to play at the College of William & Mary at 7 p.m. Saturday night.