by Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity volleyball team lost a key player and a key match in the past week, while one Mustang broke a school record. The Mustangs lost to William Monroe High School on Tuesday 2-3 (24-26, 25-21, 20-25, 25-22, 12-15) and beat Central High School last Thursday 3-1 (24-26, 25-15, 25-14, 25-19).
Head Coach Erik Healey said the Mustangs played “solid all around volleyball” despite losing the first set to Central.
“We came out of the gate a little slow, as per usual, but the team was angry we lost the first set and came back fired up,” Healey said.
After getting off to a weak start on offense, the Mustangs began to come back against the Falcons in the first set, “but by then it was too late to come back,” Healey said.
The Mustangs had 19 aces, 39 kills, and 100 digs against the Falcons. Senior outside hitter Sally Karstens and junior outside hitter Casey Sheehy led the team in aces with six. Karstens led the team in kills with 14, followed by senior setter Caiti Hof and sophomore middle hitter Vicky-Marie Addo-Ashong, who had six kills each. Addo-Ashong led the team in blocks with five. Hof led the team in assists with 22 and senior libero Dana Sembera led the team in digs with 33.
Freshman middle hitter Maddie Cherry suffered a shoulder injury against the Falcons. Prior to the injury, Cherry had the second most blocks (24) and the third most kills (67) on the team this season.
“The injury to Maddie makes us a different team, so we will need to adjust,” Healey said.
Karstens was rotated to the starting middle hitter position against the Dragons in Cherry’s absence and senior Madison Soltys took over the starting outside hitter role to cover for Karstens.
The Mustangs started out the fifth and final set of their loss to William Monroe ahead 6-1. But the Dragons came back to tie the set at 11. Then, according to Healey, a “bad call by the ref” frustrated the Mustangs. The Dragons took advantage and went on a 4-1 run to finish out the match.
“We went into the game believing in our team and believing we could win. We knew we could match up with them,” Healey said. “We made too many errors the last time we played them and we were determined to be better. And we were.”
Sembera had the big stat of the night with 39 digs against the Dragons, which is a new George Mason single game record, according to Healey.
Addo-Ashong led the team in aces and blocks with five each and kills with 12. Karstens had 11 kills and Soltys had seven kills against the Dragons. Hof led the team in assists with 29.
According to Healey, the Mustangs had high energy throughout the match, which is different from matches they’ve played the past few weeks. Several Mustangs admitted the team had been getting off to a slow start in recent matches.
Healey said the loss to William Monroe was painful and that the team was angry immediately after the match. “However, they played a phenomenal game all around and never quit,” he said. “I [hadn’t] seen them have [that] level of energy on the court in a while.”
He said that if the Mustangs bring the same energy from the loss to William Monroe into the postseason, they could make a run deep into the playoffs, which starts in late October.
But first, the Mustangs have two more district matches to play. The Mustangs play Clarke County High School next Tuesday on the road and then finish the regular season next Thursday at home against Madison County High School.