RADFORD, Va. — Last season was the first for both senior forward Olivia Scott and Head Coach Jennifer Parsons at George Mason High School. Just one year later, the two have teamed up with a core of seasoned veterans and a few exciting freshmen to bring the Mustangs their first girls soccer Group A state championship since 2004, highlighted by last Friday’s thrilling semi-final victory over Radford High, and capped by a 7-1 rout of Goochland in the championship game Saturday.
Friday’s semi-final win was the key to achieving the state title for Mason, who was also represented at the state tournament by its boys and girls tennis teams (see stories beginning on p. 18). With the semi-final game’s outcome at her feet, Scott, the Region B and Bull Run District Player of the Year, blasted the ball into the net and secured a Mustang victory on penalty kicks for the second time in three weeks, sending Mason to a triumphant and vengeful win over their Bobcat rivals, 1-1 (5-4).
Friday’s semifinal bore many of the same markings of the previous year’s contest, however this time the Mustangs were able to rebound from an early Bobcat goal and, when Scott drilled the final penalty kick, were able to shake off the memories of last season’s 1-0 loss.
“Olivia has been clutch all season,” said Parsons, referring to the Bull Run District final two weeks ago against Clarke County, in which Scott clinched the title with a penalty kick. “Last year they [Radford] scored on us first, and we couldn’t get that goal. We just wanted it so badly this year.”
Trailing 1-0 with 9:44 left in a physical contest that saw Mustang midfielder Elle Silverman taken to the hospital with a broken arm and one Bobcat player sporting a cleat-induced gash on her forehead, Mason senior Rachel Kazman scored the equalizer off a left-footed rocket into the left panel after corralling a loose ball 15 yards out. The teams battled evenly through four overtime periods before the game was decided by penalty kicks.
“It’s what we’ve been working for since last June [when Mason lost to Radford],” said Mason goalie Faunice Rebecca Jackson. “I’m just so proud of everyone on our team. We’ve worked so hard, and I think that we deserve this win.”
Radford High struck first in the de facto championship game when given a free kick with under 20 minutes left in regulation off of a Mustang penalty. Just before the kick, Bobcat coach Lee Boehling took forward Pip Pattison off the ball and sent senior Lilli Benck to launch the long shot attempt. The decision promptly paid off, as the VCU recruit launched an offering from 45 yards out that snuck by Jackson’s grasp and trickled into the net.
The penalty kicks made for a quick finish to an arduous match between two teams evenly matched in every facet of the game. In the end it was an errant penalty kick by Mary Wiley that made the difference.
Tori Faulkner of Radford converted first on a grounded shot into the right panel, followed by freshman Violet Miller of Mason, who fired a perfect ball into the left frame past Radford goalie Desi Simmons. That set the stage for Wiley, who rocketed the shot wide right. For Radford, Pattison, Maddy Denny, and Benck notched goals. Kazman and juniors Tegan Argo and Kim Kenny all converted as well, bringing Scott into the box to seal the victory for the Mustangs.
“All I had to think about at that moment was blocking everything out,” said Scott. “It was just something that had to be done. We just wanted to do it for each other, for my amazing coaches. We just wanted to stay together for one more day.”
“The fact is that George Mason is better than we are,” commented Boehling. “They’re a great team and they deserve to be the state champions.”
The Bobcats would prove to be the biggest challenge Mason would face during the state tournament. On Saturday the Mustangs breezed past the Goochland Bulldogs in the finals, 7-1, to claim the championship.
While Friday afternoon was Scott’s moment to shine, Saturday in the group A state championship game, the senior passed the torch on to some of her younger comrades.
Miller, a first-team All-Region B selection in her first year on the Mason varsity, rang up a hat trick in the first half and added another goal 16 minutes into the second 40 minutes, leading her Mustangs to their first state title since 2004.
“[Friday] against Radford, I was really nervous, so I didn’t really shoot the ball much,” Miller said about her performance. “Today, I wanted to play for the amazing seniors on the team, so I wanted to score that much more.”
Saturday’s contest on the pitch at the Dedmon Center at Radford University was not the first time Goochland and Mason had met this season. The Mustangs rolled to an 11-0 win in the Region B championship on May 30. For the opening few minutes of the state title game, the two teams played near dead even soccer, as neither was able to find a quality open look in the box.
“Goochland came out flying in the first, and they never let down,” said Mason Head Coach Jennifer Parsons. “To step up like that, it says a lot about how we fight. All the seniors just wanted to end the game on their terms, and it was just a great way to end this season.”
In the ninth minute, Miller outran the Bulldog defense and launched a shot into the upper left corner of the goal. Off a corner kick with 21:36 remaining in the half, the ball was knocked around in the Goochland box, finally landing squarely on Miller’s sweeping leg, who fired one to the back of the net, giving her team the eventual winning goal.
In the 24th minute, Scott’s speed allowed her to turn the corner on a defender, promptly crossing it on the ground to sophomore Kelley Frank, who corralled it and placed it past the keeper to the left panel.
The vaunted Mustang defense was also on display when the offense was resting. Jackson and Lauren Jekowsky, both seniors, teamed up to stymie the Goochland offense, each making several nice saves in net.
Playing without junior Alexa Peyton, who tore her ACL last week, and All-Region midfielder Silverman, juniors Argo, Abby Stroup and freshman Katja Butts stepped up admirably, holding senior Andrea Odemark, who had a hat trick in Friday’s semi-final match, to minimal chances.
During the run to the title, Mason rang up 51 goals while allowing only three. The Mustangs surpassed the half-century mark in the second half of Saturday’s title game, following Miller’s fourth goal and tallies from Karen Hamill and Mayssa Chehata.
Goochland’s lone goal came off a cross by Odemark to Tesia Werness, who deflected it with her head past Jekowsky.
The Mustang offensive stat line on Saturday was staggering. Mason more than quadrupled the Goochland shots on goal total (27-6) and had six times more corner kicks (12-2).
When the final buzzer sounded, the Mustangs poured onto the field with their index fingers pointed skyward. This relatively easy victory capped an incredible 2008 campaign for Parsons’ squad, in which they captured the Bull Run, Region B and state titles and never lost to a Single A opponent.
“I’m just so proud of everyone,” added Scott. “It’s such a great feeling, and I’m so thankful for my teammates and for my awesome coaches.”
The state championship was the perfect way to end the high school soccer careers of five seniors, whom Parsons said would be “so hard to replace.” Jekowsky (University of Tampa), Jackson (Virginia Tech), and Stephanie Pinch (Elon) walk off the pitch in a varsity uniform for the last time, while Scott (Messiah College) and Kazman (Lynchburg College) will continue their careers at the Division III schools.
Other returning players, such as Miller, plan to work just so they can get back to Radford and again experience some of the euphoria felt on Saturday afternoon.
Topping this season, they acknowledge, will be difficult, as the accomplishments of the Mustangs are plentiful. Pinch, never at a loss for words, best summed it up as her team packed their bags for the last time in 2008: “District regular season? Check,” she stated. “District tournament? Check. Regional tournament? Check. State tournament? Oh yeah, check.”