|School – George Mason|
|Conference – Atlantic 10|
|Coach – Greg Andrulis (12th Season)|
Background – George Mason was 7-7-3 overall in 2015 with a 3-2-3 mark in conference play.
The Patriots joined the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2013 after previously playing in the Colonial Athletic Association. George Mason won the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in their inaugural season in the conference.
This is a program with a winning tradition as refelected in the fact that they were 11-6-2 overall in 2012, 12-3-6 overall in 2013, and 11-4-5 overall in 2014. During the eleven years that Greg Andrulis has been at the helm of the program the Patriots have had six ten win or more seasons including three out of the past four seasons and they have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament three times (2006, 2008, 2013).
During the program's tenure as a member of the CAA they won the tournament title a total of five times.
Forward Henning Dirks was named to the All-Atlantic 10 Second Team in 2015. Goalkeeper Steffen Kraus and defender Taylor Washington were 2015 NSCAA All-Midwest Region Third Team selections.
Offense – Junior forward Henning Dirks (7g, 3a) who contributed four game-winning goals last year returns to power the Patriot offense. There is every reason to believe that Dirks will continue to casue problems for opposing defenders in 2016. He will be joined up-top by senior Matt Tucker (3g, 2a) who was also a starter last year.
Forward Tolo Ibikunle who is a transfer from West Virginia had an impressive spring season. Ibikunle has the speed, strength, and work ethic needed to make an immediate impact. Freshman forward Tunde Akinlosotu out of the McDonogh School and the Baltimore Celtic is among other highly regarded members of the recruiting class with the potential to contribute right away.
Seniors Ryan Harmouche (0g, 1a), Zach Herstek and Daniel Hoffman (2g, 2a) and junior Conlan Kemmerer (2g, 0a) are among returning midfielders who should play key roles in 2016.
Last year the Patriots netted a total of twenty-three goals with Dirks providing seven of them and Tucker three. George Mason's twelve goals in conference play and average of 1.50 goals per game was the third highest in the Atlantic 10.
The potential exists for a more productive multi-dimensional and diverse attack in 2016 but for that to occur several of the veterans or perhaps a couple of the newcomers will need to emerge as threats on the offensive side of the ball.
Defense – The Patriots must replace back Taylor Washington and defensive midfielder Brice Colcombe who were starters for the past two seasons.
Senior Cullen Hunter and junior Alain Sargeant return to anchor the defense at the certer back position. Both are seasoned players and mainstays on the defensive side of the ball who will enter the 2016 campaign with two years of starting experience under their belts.
Hunter does an excellent job of organizing the defense and is among the seniors who will play a key role in setting the pace for the team. Sargeant gained international experience recently as a member of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Football Team.
Sophomore backs Jordan Edwards (0g, 2a) and Gilian Buijk are among other returning players who should see significant action in 2016. Edwards saw action in fifteen games last year with six starts while Buijk participated in fourteen contests with three starts. Freshman back Nick Malinowski is among the newcomers who could challenge for playing time but he may experience a learning curve.
Senior Steffen Kraus who has been the starting netminder for the past three seasons returns to give the Patriots a very talented and composed presence between the pipes which is a big plus.
Newcomers – Four Star Recruiting Class
Coach Andrulis stated, "This is a class of very talented players, and even more importantly, it is a class of exceptional students who possess great character." He added, "We expect this group of players will have an immediate positive impact on our program."
Tunde Akinlosotu – Forward – Bowie, Maryland – McDonogh School – SIMA High School All-American. All-State selection. Played club with the Baltimore Celtic. Named to the 2015 USYSA National Championship Best XI Team. Ranked as the number 87 player in the class of 2016 by CSN.
Graydon Hester – Midfielder – Middleburg, Virginia – John Champe High School – Tranfer from Virginia Tech where he played in seven games in 2014. All-District Second Team as a senior in high school. Played club for D.C. United Academy.
Tolu Ibikunle – Forward – Wynnewood, Pennsylvania – St. Joseph's Preparatory School – Transfer from West Virginia where he played in thirteen games in 2014. All-Catholic Second Team selection in high school. Played for Continental FC Delco Academy. Region I ODP team member.
Nick Malinowski – Defender – Aurora, Ohio – Aurora High School – Played for the Cleveland Internationals USSF Academy. Participated in the USL Super-Y League National Camp for two years.
Ryan Mingachos – Midfielder – Danbury, Connecticut – Immaculate High School – Played for the USSF New York Red Bull Academy. Twice called up to the U.S. National Team camp. Three-time Region I ODP selection.
Grant Robinson – Midfielder – Columbia, Maryland – Loyola-Blakefield – Played for the DC United Academy. Called up to the U.S. U-19 Men's National Team for the Copa de Atlantico tournament. Ranked as the number 146 player in the class of 2016 by CSN.
Jackson Miles – Forward – Hampton, Virginia – Bethel HIgh School – Led Bethel in goals and assists for four-years. First Team All-Conference selection. Played club with Virginia Rush.
Lewis Long – Forward – Woodbridge, Virginia – Forest Park High School – All-State First Team. District Player of the Year. Washington Post All-Met First Team selection. Played club with the Southwestern Youth Association Strikers.
Prognosis for 2016 – The A-10 is a conference with a lot of parity. There is not a lot of difference in the level of talent between the teams at the top of the standings and those at the bottom of the standings.
In 2015 the Patriots ranked in the top four in both goals scored and goals allowed in Atlantic 10 Conference play. They were a competitive side but the 2015 season was a difficult one for the Patriots who finished regular season A-10 play in a tie with VCU for the number eight spot.
For the first time since they became a member of the A-10 in 2013, George Mason did not qualify for the eight team conference tournament. They also didn't have a ten win season for the first time since the 2011 campaign.
The Patriots dug a deep hole for themselves last year when they began conference play with a 0-2-3 recond. However to their credit they rebounded to win their last three confernce matchups to improve to 3-2-3 with a 7-7-3 overall record. Each season stands on its own but the fact that George Mason finished strong to complete the season with three straight wins should help create a little momentum heading into the 2016 season.
Expect the Patriots to move upward in the A-10 standings in 2016 and to again have a double digit win total.
Positives heading into the 2016 season include: an attack led by junior forward Henning Dirks that has the potential to be very explosive, a defense achored by two veteran center backs and a senior goalkeeper who has been a starter for three seasons, a roster that looks to be strong in upperclassmen leadership, and a very promising recruiting class.
Key unanswered questions include: filling the shoes of defenders Taylor Washington and Brice Colcombe who have graduated, consistency of play and whether or not the Patriots will be be able to come up with the big plays that will enable them to prevail in the close contests, the ability of the returning players or perhaps a newcomer to step forward and add an additional dimension to the offense, and whether or not the newcomers live up to expectations.
The pieces appear to be there for a solid season in 2016 but then again they looked to be there last year as well. That may mean that a big key to George Mason's season in 2016 will be how well all the pieces fit together.