By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity volleyball team is in a tie for third place in the Bull Run District standings after losing to Rappahannock County High School 2-3 (25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 19-25, 9-15) last Thursday. Both teams have a 6-4 district records going into matches against district opponents tomorrow night.
“We knew it was going to be tough. They are a much improved team, Rappahannock,” said Head Coach Erik Healey. “The last time we played them, each set was within three points.” The Mustangs beat the Panthers 3-0 in their first match in late August.
In the first set of their second match, the Mustangs were down early by as much as six points before narrowing the lead and then staging a comeback to win 25-23.
“I called a timeout when we were down and just told the girls to relax and play our game,” Healey said.
The Panthers won two of the next three sets to force a tie-breaking fifth set. Healey said the Panthers played “cleaner” during that set than his team, and that the Mustangs committed errors at inopportune times throughout the match. Senior outside hitter Sally Karstens agreed with Healey.
“I think our defense was pretty strong,” Karstens said about the fifth set. “I just think that we made hitting errors at the wrong time.”
The Mustangs committed 30, 47, and 29 errors in the second, fourth, and fifth sets respectively, and 159 team errors throughout the match.
Karstens led the team in aces with seven. Sophomore middle hitter Vicky-Marie Addo-Ashong led the team with 14 kills against the Panthers. Karstens had 10 kills. Freshman middle hitter Maddie Cherry led the team in blocks with five. Karstens led the team in digs with 28.
Senior Emily Gile, who normally plays outside hitter but played libero against the Panthers in place of senior Dana Sembera, had 22 digs in the match.
The Mustangs fared better in their most recent district match against Manassas Park High School. They beat the Cougars 3-0 (25-16, 25-10, 25-17) on Tuesday.
Healey said the team’s confidence level was the biggest key to their victory against the Cougars.
“Despite losing three of our last four, our team knows how good we can be,” Healey said. “The vibe of our team even after last Thursday’s loss has changed significantly.”
Healey said the team, which had 16 aces in the match, served the ball “very well” against the Cougars.
“At times we looked too comfortable and got caught off guard, but in general we played solid volleyball all the way around,” Healey said. “This game gave us an opportunity to do some things offensively we haven’t been able to do recently.”
Karstens, along with freshman setter/outside hitter Shaun Roddock, led the team in aces with four each. Karstens led the team in kills with eight. Senior setter Caiti Hof led the team in assists with 21. Sembera was back in action against the Cougars and led the team in digs with 27.
The Mustangs face Warren County High School tomorrow night at home. They lost their first match against the Wildcats 0-3, but Healey said the team is better prepared for the match and that the rematch has been on the team’s radar since the loss in early September.
“We went into the last match against Warren not knowing much. Now we understand their power is in their middle hitters,” Healey said, adding that Addo-Ashong and Cherry need to step up in order to counter the Wildcats’ middle hitters. “We are going to keep their middle hitters off balance and hopefully frustrate them into making errors.”
Healey said that despite the fact that the Mustangs lost three out of their last four matches that the team is finally gelling as a single unit as opposed to six individuals on the court.
“Our team is anxious for the opportunity to prove to themselves and the rest of the district that we are still a contender,” Healey said.