By Drew Costley
One of George Mason High School’s spring sports teams has already started its regular season and the rest are gearing up to start at the end of this week and the beginning of the next. Two coaches are newly taking the helm of teams with recent success, three coaches are trying to get their teams over the .500 mark, and four coaches are attempting to repeat or build on the state championship success of last season.
Last season, the boys soccer team won its first Virginia High School League state championship since 2010. Head Coach Frank Spinello said his team’s main goal is to stay focused this season.
The Mustangs are returning 17 players from their state championship team. Spinello said experience is the team’s biggest improvement. Amongst the Mustangs’ returning players are junior defender Ned Quill, senior midfielder Paul Darmstadter, and sophomore striker Raheem Lawal, All-State players in 2013; senior midfielder Sinan Kokuuslu, an All-Region player in 2013; and junior midfielder Kavon Nowroozi and junior defender Henderson Beam, All-District players in 2013. According to Spinello, Beam is recovering from injury and will miss the early part of the season.
Spinello said last season that the team’s goal was to be the last team standing at the end of the state championship, and he and his team accomplished that goal. He said doing that twice in a row will be a bigger challenge.
“It is always tough to repeat (championships) with a target on our backs. We expect every team on our schedule to play their best game against us, and we want it that way,” Spinello said. “I think this team is up to the challenge.”
The boys soccer team starts its season next Tuesday at home against Warren County High School.
The girls soccer team achieved a milestone last season, winning the VHSL state championship for a record sixth straight year, but also lost the Bull Run District regular season title for the first time in as many years. Head Coach Jennifer Parsons, who said the district championship loss was good for the team, hasn’t changed her big-picture strategy much – she wants her team to have the same focus as last season.
“Again, taking one game at a time is our focus,” Parsons said. “We have a new team and we need to work to gel together so we can achieve the goals of defending our titles again this season.”
The Mustangs lost five seniors to graduation, four of whom were regular starters on last season’s roster.
A group of four seniors aided by three juniors, all with varsity experience, returns to the team this year to replace the loss of what Parsons called a “fantastic” senior class. This year’s seniors include All-State Player of the Year Claire Trevisan at midfield, defender Erica Schneider, forward Camille Rice, and goalkeeper Rebecca Moot. Moot, a starting goalkeeper as a freshman, is returning to the team after missing the 2013 season due to injury.
The Mustangs have a deep roster of experience despite their youth – 16 of the players on the 18-player roster have state tournament experience. Half of those players, though, are sophomores and Parsons said she “really expects” the starting lineup to change constantly as players compete for starting roles.
“It’s going to be a very talented environment, and I think that will be in everyone’s best interest,” Parsons said.
The girls soccer team starts its season next Tuesday at Warren County High School.
The boys tennis team won its fourth straight VHSL state championship for overall team play last year and won its 11th straight Region B title, but wasn’t able to repeat singles or doubles state championships from 2012. After losing three key players to graduation, Head Coach Matt Sowers will have to make roster adjustments at the top levels of competition for the second season in a row.
He said the players need to build chemistry quick because they’re going to play the bulk of their regular-season schedule in March as opposed to April this season.
“Making roster adjustments and pairing newer players with experienced players is one of the many parts of coaching that I enjoy,” Sowers said. “It’s a challenge that I like to undertake in rebuilding and reevaluating old and new talent.”
Seniors Nate Jones and Jacob Morris are a new doubles pairing this season and are two of three seniors that Sowers said he expects to rely upon throughout the season. The other is Jacob Field. Morris was 17-0 in singles play last season.
Sowers said he also expects players such as seniors David Drawbaugh and Rohan Rana; sophomore Thomas Beddow; and freshmen Thomas Morris, Mez Benmaamar, and Viraj Suri to help fill the void left by the departure of last year’s senior class.
The team’s goal, according to Sowers, will be to win Conference 35 and regional matches this season to get to the postseason.
The boys tennis team starts its season tomorrow at home against Brentsville High School.
The girls tennis team bounced back from a 6-7 regular season in 2012 with a 12-1 regular season and overall team, singles, and doubles state championships in 2013 in former Head Coach Chrisline Baldo’s last season. A new coaching duo – Head Coach Alexandra Ware and Assistant Coach Stephanie Ferreira – took over the program in the off-season.
“What we believe sets our team apart from other schools is how well our girls work to support each other,” Ferreira said.
Ware and Ferreira said the Mustangs have camaraderie, dedication, and a willingness to improve. Players they said stood out are seniors Madison Soltys and Caiti Hof, junior Kynadi Mauney, sophomore Carrington Mauney, and freshman Rachel Baek. The Mauney sisters won the state championship in doubles last year.
“We have a healthy competition on our team and we hope that continues the entire season. With that being said, Coach Ware and I are having some trouble creating a lineup because the girls are so evenly matched,” Ferreira said.
The girls tennis team started its season Tuesday at Yorktown High School, but results were not available at press time.
The baseball team finished the 2013 season with a .500 record a year after finishing under .500 for the first time since the 2008 season. Head Coach Adam Amerine said the baseball team has some talented players who will help the Mustangs compete.
“We like to challenge ourselves with a tough non-conference schedule so it is hard to say what our record will be, but I like the direction and chemistry of this team and program,” Amerine said. The Mustangs’ non-conference schedule includes Yorktown High School, which play two divisions above George Mason, and Woodrow Wilson High School. Wilson hasn’t lost a game for 14 consecutive seasons.
Last season there were several players gunning for starting pitcher spots at the beginning of the season. Amerine said the Mustangs tried seven pitchers out in their scrimmage against Fairfax High School on Tuesday and “they all showed well.”
The Mustangs haven’t been to the regional tournament since their last winning season in 2011. Amerine said winning a Bull Run District title would be nice, but the team’s goals are set higher than that.
“Ultimately our goal is to win Conference 35 and compete into June again,” Amerine said. “I believe we have the right combination of kids with talent, heart, and dedication that watching Mason baseball will be something the community doesn’t want to miss.”
The baseball team starts its season at Warren County High School next Tuesday.
Boys and Girls Track
The track and field team placed second in the state championship meet last season with Coach Matt Kirk and have cross country Head Coach Alisa Harvey taking over the team this season. Harvey said that the girls team improved in distance and sprinting events from last year, and the boys team improved in distance events.
According to Harvey, there are almost 46 students on the girls track and field team.
“We have good depth of talent in both the sprints and the distances,” Harvey said. “Given those high of numbers I expect that we will be able to score in multiple events, which makes for a high point-scoring potential.”
The boys team has less depth than the girls with 37 students on the team.
“Fortunately, the team has a good amount of experienced upperclassmen and talent,” Harvey said. “Most of the team consists of middle distance and distance runners.”
Harvey said she’s expecting top performances from senior Joelle Randrianasolo, juniors Molly Johnson and Kaitlin Kutchma, sophomores Blaise Sevier, Tara Holman and Grace Eye, and freshmen Mia Sawyer and Megan Jenkins on the girls side, and from seniors Truman and Preston Custer, Michael Addo-Ashong and John Marshall and sophomore Alec White on the boys side.
The track and field team’s first meet is March 26 at Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School.
The boys lacrosse team will be fielding a varsity team this season – one year after having to compete at the junior varsity level because of low turnout – with new Head Coach Kevin Pope.
“The biggest challenge I see is to reestablish boys lacrosse as a mainstream sport at Mason,” Pope said. “We need a consistent pipeline of players coming up from the Falls Church youth program as well as to invigorate the Mason student population towards lacrosse.”
Pope said he’ll be looking to juniors Jackson Jost and Paul Patterson and sophomore Hayden Sausville on defense, with juniors Matt Valley and John Hennessey as backup and man down defenders. Since there is a complete unit returning on defense, that will be the team’s focus, Pope said.
The boys lacrosse team starts its season next Monday at John Champe High School.
The girls lacrosse team finished one game under .500 in 2013 and lost seven seniors to graduation over the off-season, but Head Coach Courtney Gibbons said her team is looking forward to the 2014 season. “Our team looks good and the girls are working hard which is great,” Gibbons said. “We hope to get back to the success we had in 2010, but we do have a lot first year varsity players and a first year goalie.”
The Mustangs are in their fourth season since they went 15-2 and made it to the Dulles District championship and the Region AA tournament in 2010. Gibbons said the team lost a great senior class last season, but have other players ready to make up for those losses including senior Maeve Curtin and junior Haley Zullo.
“The girls came ready for the 2014 season, and it was clear that majority of them had worked on their stick skills and conditioning during the off season,” Gibbons said.
The girls lacrosse team starts its season next Monday at home against John Champe High School.
Requests for interview to the softball team didn’t receive a response prior to press time.