By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity volleyball team celebrated two milestones on Tuesday on the way to a 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 27-25) victory over Clarke County High School. Senior middle and outside hitter Sally Karstens notched her 500th career kill and senior libero Dana Sembera tallied her 750th career dig.
Mason Head Coach Erik Healey said the Mustangs served the ball well against the Eagles, evidenced by their 17 aces as a team. Sembera led the team in aces against the Eagles with five.
According to Healey, the Eagles played the Mustangs close in the first two sets despite losing both. Then in the third set, the Eagles took an 18-5 lead over the Mustangs. Healey called a timeout in response to what looked like an imminent Eagles third set win.
“I told the girls that this game was all mental. They were making mistakes that were uncharacteristic even for our team,” Healey said. “I told them to settle down and play their game.”
Eventually, the Mustangs were able to chip away at the Eagles’ lead, force a win-by-two situation and take the final set 27-25. Healey said the Mustangs “showed a lot of perseverance” against the Eagles.
Sembera led the Mustangs in digs against the Eagles with 25 and now has 757 career digs. Karstens led the team in kills with 18, which was a single-game record for the team, and now has 514 career kills. Senior setter Caiti Hof led the team in assists with 19.
The Mustangs are now gearing up to play their final game of the regular season against Madison County High School, who are undefeated in the Bull Run District and have only one lost one match all season. The Moutaineers beat the Mustangs in straight sets in late September at Madison County, and the results of the grudge match tomorrow night could bear on who the Mustangs play in the first round of the district tournament. Regardless of whom the Mustangs play in the first round, they start the district tournament next Tuesday at home.
The match against the Mountaineers will also be the final regular season home game for the Mustangs’ six seniors. Still, Healey said the Mustangs are going to try to abate the magnitude of the match.
“Last time we played Madison we put so much pressure on ourselves and our frustration boiled over,” Healey said. “Our focus is to remain calm and poised.”
Healey found out in the past week that freshman middle hitter Maddie Cherry, who injured her shoulder in the match against Central High School two weeks ago, will likely be out for the rest of the season. Karstens has rotated into the starting middle hitter position and senior Madison Soltys is filling in as the starting outside hitter.
“The girls are starting to settle into the new positions and rotations,” Healey said. “It’s always tough adjusting to that kind of change, but the girls have proven to be up to the task.