Injuries can make or break a season. Unfortunately for Mason’s men’s soccer team, injuries have plagued them all season, derailed a 6-0 start to the season, and the 20th ranking in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.

Starting off the season so well and earning a spot in the rankings is a testament to the hard work put in by the young Mason team.

After graduation and the loss of key players from last season’s roster, Mason had 12 freshmen on this year’s team. Coach Greg Andrulis was not terribly concerned about the youth and inexperience of this year’s team.

“With 12 freshmen, there was bound to be some growing pains, but with terrific leadership from our captains and seniors, we we able to come together as a group fairly quickly.”

Mason’s team could not have written up a better start to this season. After reeling off road wins against two local schools, George Washington University and American University, Mason continued its great start by winning three games in a row of a five-game home stand and besting St. Peter’s, St. Francis, and University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Mason’s 6-0 start  to the season was the best record in the school’s history since the 1985 team started its season 12-0. It was following this start that Mason earned the 20th ranking in the NSCAA weekly poll. At that point in the season, Mason ranked fourth in scoring offense in the nation, averaging three goals per game.

“Our good start had a lot to do with a healthy and cohesive lineup that clicked and found a way to win,” said Coach Andrulis.

It was in a match against Navy on Sept. 19 when Mason incurred its first loss of the season. Mason was upended in a nail-biter to the Midshipmen in double overtime and fell 2-1.

The week following the loss, Mason lost its ranking in the NSCAA poll but earned 30 votes to place just outside of the rankings. This would be the last time Mason would be seen on national rankings for the rest of the season.

In a game televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel, Mason was narrowly defeated 3-2 by CAA conference opponent and then No. 14, Old Dominion University. This was Mason’s first of three straight conference losses.

“When we hit some bumps, those coincided with a few key injuries,” said Coach Andrulis. “Our depth is young and although we have received some key contributions from our freshmen, the fact is, we were undefeated with a veteran group and have been a bit inconsistent when we have used a lot of younger players.”

Mason has had to endure the consequences of injuries to such key players such as junior forward/midfielder Wes Sever, who lost seven games this season as a result of injury. Mason was also without second leading scorer Timmy Mulgrew for four games this season.

“Add to that that the heart and soul of our midfield group, Julio Arjona and Alex Herrera, have played at less than 100 percent for most of the second half of the season,” remarked Coach Andrulis.

“It’s a tribute to other players standing up and getting the job done. Taylor Morgan has been outstanding all season and has carried the bulk of the work offensively for us,” said Coach Andrulis.

Morgan, a senior forward, leads the team in goals with 13 and in points with 26 on the season.

Just as the conference tournament and postseason play drew near, Mason was hoping to return its squad to full health and have all hands on deck for the fight to get into the NCAA tournament.

Unfortunately, in Mason’s game against Delaware on Wednesday, the team suffered another critical injury, this time to starting goalkeeper Dustin Butcher, who suffered a broken hand against the Blue Hens.

“All in all, this group has done a pretty good job getting nationally ranked and overcoming some adversity to get into the conference tournament with a good overall record,” said Coach Andrulis.

With the CAA conference tournament’s quarterfinals beginning No. 8, Mason currently carries a record of 11-5 while 4-4 in conference play. Mason’s final two games against Northeastern and Georgia State will determine its seeding in the tournament.

With every remaining game determining the outlook of the season, Andrulis and his squad are now focusing more than ever on each game, all while fighting the injury bug.