Fall Sports Coaches Have High Hopes for ’Stang Victory

September 4, 2013 6:55 PM0 comments

Mason High Girls Field Hockey Makes Its Debut

By Drew Costley

George Mason High School’s fall sports teams began their seasons last month with the volleyball and golf teams notching victories against district opponents. Most of the Mustang coaches expect their teams to stride towards higher accomplishments than past years. One of those coaches will lead the field hockey team as they move up from club- to varsity-level competition.

FIELD HOCKEY

The Mustangs lost their first regular season match at the varsity level on Tuesday 6-1 to Bishop O’Connell High School. George Mason moved the team from club- to varsity-level play after two seasons as a result of increased popularity amongst student athletes, and hired two coaches with playing experience – Amanda Crider and Kaitlyn Jones – to helm the fledgling program.

Crider, who is the head coach of the program, recently graduated from the University of Virginia where she played goalie for a Cavalier team that advanced to two Final Fours. Jones is a former high school player and teaches at Mount Daniel School. Crider said the opportunity to start a new program is an “absolute blessing.”

“I have always aspired to be a coach; little did I know that I would be able to begin a new program,” Crider said. “Opportunities to be a part of ‘the first’ do not happen much anymore.”

Crider said that she and Jones have had the team focus on fitness, fundamentals, and “the smarts behind the game.” The team has been starting practices with a workout on the track and then working on “game-like” drills. She said there was already a strong foundation laid by the club program.

George Mason High School’s girls field hockey team kicked off its inaugural season with an away game at Bishop O’Connell High School on Tuesday afternoon.  O’Connell came out strong with three goals in the first five minutes of play. The Mustangs battled back with Callie Gaskins scoring the first field hockey goal in Mustang history on a well-placed pass from Caroline Striker. In the end, despite strong defensive play by goalkeepers Caroline Duffett and Rachel Skomra, the Mustangs fell to the Knights 6-1. The JV team tied O’Connell 1-1 with a goal from Mason’s Gabe Brown. (Photo: Courtesy Christine Jones)

George Mason High School’s girls field hockey team kicked off its inaugural season with an away game at Bishop O’Connell High School on Tuesday afternoon. O’Connell came out strong with three goals in the first five minutes of play. The Mustangs battled back with Callie Gaskins scoring the first field hockey goal in Mustang history on a well-placed pass from Caroline Striker. In the end, despite strong defensive play by goalkeepers Caroline Duffett and Rachel Skomra, the Mustangs fell to the Knights 6-1. The JV team tied O’Connell 1-1 with a goal from Mason’s Gabe Brown. (Photo: Courtesy Christine Jones)

“Thanks to the previous club coach, I had a great group of returning girls who know how to play hockey,” Crider said.

Some of the returning players that Crider expects to play a key role on the team this season are Sara Macris, the only senior on the team, and a pair of sophomores, Caroline Stricker and Julianne Kelly. Crider said that Macris is a “fast and smart” defender and Stricker is “a brick wall in the back.”

“[Kelly] has composure as she plays knowing how to keep the midfield connected,” Crider said.

The Mustangs play their first home game against Patriot High School tomorrow night.

CROSS COUNTRY

Head coach Alisa Harvey expects both the girls and boys cross country teams to take different routes to build upon second- and third-place finishes in the state. Sophomores Corinne Carson and Clara Frost and juniors Alicia Devereaux and Kate Atkeson, all top-seven runners, are not returning to the team this season. But sophomore Blaise Sevier, the top runner for the girls and team MVP in 2012, is returning to the team. Sevier ran a 20:36 at the Mustangs’ scrimmage at Williamsburg Middle School on what Harvey called a “challenging” 5K course.

“She trains at the same tempo as most boys,” Harvey said.

Sophomore Grace Eye, junior Kaitlin Kutchma, freshman Brooke Meinhart, senior Lauren Meinhart, and freshmen Coral Gillette and Mia Sawyer make up the rest of the Mustangs’ top-seven. The girls’ strategy will be for each runner to focus on running her best individual race, according to Harvey.

“We have gaps in our top seven,” Harvey said. “The team will do best if each runner strives to give their best performances.” She said the girls need to work on individual pacing and interval training.

“Many of the girls are hesitant to push themselves beyond their comfort zone during training,” Harvey said.

The boys lost their top two runners in 2012, Jessie Schafer and Jeremy Brown, to graduation but have a group of 10 runners fighting for one of the top-seven spots. The top runner for the boys this season is senior Truman Custer, followed by junior Jackson Jost and seniors Paul Sanders, Preston Custer, John Marshall, Austin Gogal, and David Drawbaugh. Custer finished the 5K scrimmage at Williamsburg 46 seconds faster than the rest of the field at 17:45.

“His track experience and quality summer training has him faster and stronger than anyone else on the team thus far,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the boys, who she will encourage to run as a pack, also need to work on interval training. At the Williamsburg scrimmage, the next seven George Mason runners finished within 30 seconds of each other.

“They tend to prefer the group runs as opposed to the group interval workouts,” she said.

Harvey said she expects the girls to rally for a state title and for the boys to finish in at least second in the state meet at the end of the season.

The Mustangs’ next meet is this Saturday at Great Meadow Park.

VOLLEYBALL

The Mustangs are 2-1 on the regular season with a pair of 3-0 victories against district opponents Rappahannock County High School and Manassas Park High School last month. They lost to district newcomer Warren County High School 0-3 on Tuesday.

George Mason has been one of the top teams in the Bull Run district in recent years, which Head Coach Erik Healey attributes to the determination of the players.

“I believe the team started to see the potential for our program and embraced a desire and passion for [volleyball] that wasn’t there in the past,” Healey said. As a result, the Mustangs have a 34-15 record the past two seasons and made it to the regional championship tournament.

According to Healey, the volleyball team has a desire to make history this season.

“Every season we sit down on day one and talk about goals we have for the year,” Healey said. “And each year the team has wanted to be the first volleyball team in George Mason history to win a district championship.” In order to do this, the team will need to find players to step up in place of the five players who graduated from the squad after last season, including Maddie Johnson, a four-year starting setter and two-time first team all-district player.

Seniors Sally Karstens and Dana Sembera, two first team all-district players returning to the Mustangs’ roster this season, will be key if the Mustangs want to build upon the success of past seasons. Karstens, who is in her fourth year on the varsity team, is an outside hitter for the Mustangs and Sembera is the team’s libero. Other players that Healey identified as players he expects to step up are seniors Peggy Brozi, Caiti Hof, and Madison Soltys, and junior Casey Sheehy.

“These six players are especially poised to make another great run after a disappointing end to the season last year,” Healey said.

After a 17-8 2012 season, the Mustangs lost in the semifinal round of the district and regional tournaments. Healey said the experience in the district tournament led to an increased dedication to the goal of winning the district championship this season.

“We were so close last year, and I think that left a void in some of our returners,” Healey said.

The Mustangs play Strasburg High School at home tomorrow night.

CHEERLEADING

Despite losing a little more than a third of the squad they started with in 2012, the Mustangs’ cheerleading team has maintained the goal of getting to regionals and placing higher than the previous season, according to Head Coach Beth Ann Bird. Still, the program has come a long way from where it was six years ago when Bird took over. According to her, “most would say there really wasn’t a cheer program at all.” By the end of that first season she had five cheerleaders. Now the program has a varsity team of 18 cheerleaders and junior varsity team of 15, a team manager, and three coaches.

She said with the recent history of the program, it was particularly hard to lose so many cheerleaders in a single season.

“Every loss is a difficult one, but with a growing program like ours, simply losing the number of girls – and the most experienced of them – is the hardest part,” Bird said. The Mustangs still have nine senior cheerleaders to help lead the team into the 2013-14 school year.

“This particular group has truly been the foundation of our program over the last three years – all are extremely strong in their own specialties,” Harvey said.

Bird said the teams’ accomplishment of their preseason goal to place higher in the district competition and earn a spot in regionals helped contribute to their confidence. She said their experience last season “made them realize they could set loftier goals for themselves this year.”

“They just believed in themselves more,” Harvey said.

The Mustangs’ first competition is Sept. 28 at Central High School.

FOOTBALL

Head coach Tony Green is beginning his second season as head of the varsity football program with a young team. A slight majority of George Mason’s players, 19 out of the 37 on the Mustangs’ roster, are underclassmen and only seven are seniors. Last season the Mustangs’ only win came in their homecoming match against John Champe High School in a 23-0 victory. In preparation for this season, the Mustangs played two scrimmages last month against Brentsville District High School and The Avalon School.

George Mason is set to play its season and home opener Friday night against Rappahannock County High School.

GOLF

The golf team has already surpassed its 2012 performance that led to a 0-8 record. The Mustangs have placed in the middle of the pack in the three tournaments they played this season and won their first head-to-head match against Madison County High School last month. They dropped their other three head-to-head matches of the season to Clarke County High School, William Monroe High School, and Strasburg High School.

The Mustangs played Central High School on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time.

Junior Thomas Rund has been consistently the lowest scoring player for the team with senior Wesley Coupard, junior Daniel Donovan, and sophomore Daniel Schlitt rounding out the low scores on the team in the majority of matches.

The Mustangs play their next match tomorrow against district opponent Warren County High School.

Coaches from the football and golf teams could not be reached for comment.

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