By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity volleyball team won two of three games played in the past week, but lost 1-3 (20-25, 21-25, 25-19, 23-25) last Thursday at home against Warren County High School. The Mustangs, with a 9-4 overall record and 8-4 district record, are now in third place in the Bull Run District standings after losing both contests to the Wildcats, who are also 8-4 in the district.
After losing the first two sets to the Wildcats, the Mustangs won the third set and looked poised to force a fourth set. With senior libero Dana Sembera serving, George Mason rallied back from a 19-24 deficit with a four-point run.
“I definitely thought I was going to be able to keep serving and we were going to win that set and then go on to the fifth set,” Sembera said.
Then, with the score at 23-24, George Mason sophomore middle hitter Vicky-Marie Addo-Ashong sent a spike onto the Wildcats’ side of the net. After the ensuing dig from a Warren County player jutted into out-of-bounds territory, the Mustang players on court and fans erupted in celebration. But another Wildcats player ran out of bounds and volleyed the ball back onto the Mustangs’ court with a desperate underhand dig.
The Mustangs, unfocused because of their celebration, were unable to return the volley and gave the Wildcats the final point of the match.
“I think we celebrated too early, which we have a habit of doing,” Addo-Ashong said. “We didn’t really follow the ball and when it came back over we weren’t prepared enough to get it. And we had to scramble and ended up losing the point.”
Junior outside hitter Casey Sheehy led the Mustangs with three aces. Senior outside hitter Sally Karstens led in kills with 14, followed by Addo-Ashong with eight and freshman middle hitter Maddie Cherry with four. Senior setter Caiti Hof assisted with 20 points against the Wildcats and Sembera and Karstens led the Mustangs in digs with 24 and 18 respectively. Senior defensive specialist Peggy Brozi and sophomore defensive specialist Mary Catherine Donovan each added 12 digs. The Mustangs had 95 errors as a team.
The Mustangs had better results in their two most recent games. They beat Pope John Paul the Great Catholic School 3-0 on Monday. After being down 11-18 early in the first set, the Mustangs rallied back to win that set and ride that energy to victories in the next two sets.
“The team came out thinking the game was going to be easier than it was and they let [Pope John Paul] get on top early,” said Head Coach Erik Healey. He said passing and defense are the Mustangs’ strengths in any game and keys to the victory against the Wolves.
“All of our defensive players are capable of digging up any ball, whether it is hit hard or whether the other team is trying to tip or place the ball,” Healey said. “All our defensive players have great reactions to what they see on the other side of the net.”
Sheehy led the team in aces with four and Karstens led the team in kills with seven followed by Addo-Ashong with six. Hof assisted with 17 points against the Wolves and Sembera had 24 digs in the match.
On Tuesday, George Mason beat Strasburg High School 3-1. Healey attributed the Mustangs’ loss in the first set to a slow start and inaccurate serving. The Mustangs committed five serving errors in the first set alone.
“Again, as a team we come out slow and it is detrimental. We put ourselves in a hole making it that much more difficult to come back,” Healey said.
He said the Mustangs’ hitters “did a great job of mixing up [their] attacks” and kept the Rams’ defense “out of sync” for most of the match.
Sembera led the Mustangs in aces with seven and digs with 22. Karstens led the team in kills with 12, followed by Addo-Ashong and freshman Kate Karstens, who had six and five kills against the Rams respectively. Hof assisted on 17 kills against the Rams.
Going into their Oct. 1 match-up against Manassas Park High School, the Mustangs had lost three of their last four matches. But they’ve won three of the four matches they’ve played since then, something Healey attributes to the team being confident.
“Our girls have been confident in their ability to beat the other teams and to play our style of game,” Healey said. The Mustangs have a 2-2 record against the final four teams they have on their regular season schedule. “Hopefully we can ride this confidence into the next four games which will pose several challenges.”
The Mustangs play Central High School tomorrow night at home and William Monroe High School next Tuesday at William Monroe. The game tomorrow night will also be George Mason’s first-ever Dig Pink event to support the fight against breast cancer. Sally Karstens led the effort to organize the event, which will consist of raffles and T-shirt sales, for the Side Out Foundation, a group founded in 2004.
“We hope our local community will come out and support our team and support the fight against breast cancer,” Healey said. “[And] hopefully our team will embrace the excitement of our fans and the events of the evening to come out victorious.”