John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

It was a cold and rainy night, but a night for two teams that needed a win. The Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens came in at 5-7-0 overall, needing to turn around their losing season.

The Fightin’ Blue Hens were 2-2-0 in the CAA, setting up for an important conference matchup. The George Mason Patriots came into the game 7-3-1 overall, continuing their success from last year.

Unfortunately, they have not lived up to their own conference expectations, beating the formidable foe William & Mary, yet subsequently losing to the dismal Towson Tigers.

To continue boasting a winning conference record, the Patriots would need to play against not only Delaware, but also the terrible weather conditions. At kickoff, the temperature was in the 40s, paired with a drizzle that never seemed to stop.

“We lost to Towson last week; we should have won against James Madison. Now . . . we want to win everything,” said sophomore midfielder Ryan Gracia on the two non-wins last week.

The night seemed to be characterized by awful plays from both sides, completely missing passes directly to them, missing foul shots over the box from just a few yards away and sometimes lazy play from the defenders when it mattered most.

The Patriots came out of the gate playing fast, despite the conditions, even attempting to kick a midair goal six minutes into the game. Gracia took the ball for eight yards from junior forward Irvin Martinez and curved it into the top of the goal past diving freshman goalie Brandon Paul for the first goal of the game.

“I’ve been struggling a lot this season. So I’ve been staying a lot after practice shooting, working on some shots, coming to practice early . . . because the two goals I had this year were from penalty kicks, so I wanted to get a goal in the run of play. I guess all that work finally paid off tonight,” said Gracia of this personal turning point in the season.

After the goal, the two teams traded shots until Fightin’ Blue Hen junior midfielder Jon Scheer fed the ball to freshman defender Roberto Vernaschi, who made a goal on a corner kick with 20 minutes to go in the half.

“They took [the corner kick] a little quicker than I think we were ready for. We have a problem with taking our foot off the gas a little after we score,” said senior goalkeeper Kelley of the penalty kick and the subsequent score.

Ball position continued to shift between the two teams until a Delaware foul kick. On the kick, Mason recovered the ball and traveled the distance of the field before junior forward Ernesto Marquez gave the ball to junior defenseman/midfielder Fro Adu, who punched it in for his first goal of the season. This forced the issue of conference superiority, as the Patriots led by one at the half.

The Patriots started the second half by scoring within three minutes. Gracia attempted a goal and, although Paul saved the shot, junior forward Draymond Washington found the goal on the rebound for his fourth of the season.

Ten minutes into the half, the Patriots caught a lucky break when, on a foul shot in the box, the Fightin’ Blue Hens kicked the ball just over the top of the goal. Sean Kelley made a leap to ensure the fact, but the ball flew over his outstretched hand.

After that, many shots were taken, mostly by Delaware, but nothing more came of them. The cap to an odd night came with a red card ejection for sophomore midfielder Eber Martinez with only a minute left in the game.

“We have to take care of our games at home; we’ve let some slip away. The conference is so tight and Northeastern is pretty much at the same place they were last year, and that’s the team that we beat in the conference finals last year. It’s going to be a heck of a match and we’re looking forward to it,” said coach Andrulis of the game against Northeastern last Saturday.

The Northeastern game was set to be a rematch of the conference finals, which Mason won. Mason looks to have a great rest of the year, taking down top teams in the conference.

“Our conference is really tight and the best teams on paper don’t always win. We just had to bounce back. We got in a hole last year, where we literally had to win out the rest of the season to be in it. That’s what we don’t want to happen this year. Overall, we appear to be learning from our mistakes,” said Kelley of the outlook for the rest of season.

The Patriots look to continue their recent success, focusing on Kelley, Gracia, as well as newcomer junior forward Victor Freeman.

Kelley has proven his worth throughout his collegiate career, with the pinnace of his success coming in his senior year. Kelley has only allowed 10 goals in 12 games. In the same stretch, Kelley has totaled 53 saves for the Patriots.

Gracia leads the team with 17 shots on goal. He is also tied for first on the team with three assists.
Freeman is tied for first in goals, totaling four goals in only seven games. He is also tied for first in ssists with three. This gives him sole posession of the team lead in points with eleven in his first year for the Patriots.

Mason looked to continue their success Saturday as they played Northeastern. The two teams know each other well after they met in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game last year. The Patriots took the title, leaving Northeastern to look for revenge coming into the game.