Sports

Mustangs Winter Sports Teams Prepare for Season

RETURNING MASON BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER Josh Allen, seen here shooting a three pointer against Clarke County High School last season, is one of ten seniors on the team. (Photo: Liz Lizama)
RETURNING MASON BOYS BASKETBALL PLAYER Josh Allen, seen here shooting a three pointer against Clarke County High School last season, is one of ten seniors on the team. (Photo: Liz Lizama)

by Matt Delaney

December’s arrival marks the beginning of the winter sports season for George Mason High School and a renewed sense of optimism for each team.

Boys Basketball

Record-wise Mason’s boys’ basketball team were successful last season finishing at 24-2. However, most opponents were not high-caliber, setting them up poorly for the postseason.

“Our regular season dominance came back to get us in the loss to Brunswick; we hadn’t been tested since Christmas,” head coach Chris Capannola said. “Hopefully we can take the next step this year.”

Hope springs eternal for the squad as nine players return from the previous year’s campaign, including all five starters.

The depth allows the team to run two lines without a drop-off in performance. To keep players sharp, Capannola’s demanding more out of his practice regimen.

“I need to keep practices fresh for the guys. They can get bored and lose focus at times,” Capannola said. “That’s on me to make sure they don’t do that. It’s all part of the deal, coaching veteran players.”

The goal is simple: State’s or bust. For a senior-heavy team that won all their district and conference games the previous year, they expect to get their opponent’s best each night. Now it’s about fulfilling the task at hand.

“It’s a different mindset this year as there is no more ‘next year’ for 10 of the kids,” Capannola said. The boys basketball season started on Tuesday, Dec. 1 with a 74-46 win over Riverside High School.

Girls Basketball

First year head coach Michael Gilroy inherits a program that went 18-7 last year, but the new season brings mystery with it. Former stalwarts like Katie Goodwin have graduated, requiring the team to find a new identity.

“It’s going to be more of a balanced attack,” Gilroy said. “We’re not looking for one person to take over, we’re looking for a full team environment here.”

Contrary to the boys’ team, the Lady Mustangs are young, with eight sophomores and two freshman making up their roster. Gilroy said he knows the team won’t adjust to his scheme immediately, but it will lay the foundation for years to come.

For now, he’s counting on returning sophomore and center Kaylee Hirsch to lead the team on and off the court.

“She didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, but she’s going to get thrown into the fire,” Gilroy said. But despite their youth, expectations for the team aren’t being scaled back in the least.

“Team-wise, we want to get to the state tournament,” Gilroy said. “The past two years they have not got out of regionals, so that is the goal.” The girls basketball team began their season at home with an 82-34 victory over Riverside High School on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Wrestling

An incomplete roster hampered Mason’s wrestling team from nabbing victories last year, but individually speaking, players made strides throughout the season.

“Last season was tough; we were missing four weight classes, and of the ten we filled, seven were first year wrestlers,” head coach Bryan Harris said. “[But] it was a very hard-working group and everyone made a ton of progress over the course of the season.”

This year is different; it could be the first time Mason fields a full 14-man roster since 2003. Eight returners and three experienced freshman, Sierra Sulc, Jack Felgar and Chris Kim, will make up the team plus captains Matt Mineo (132 lbs), Jack Dana (195 lbs) and Hunter Sulc (182 lbs). With a full roster, Mason will make team goals for the first time in a while.

“Every season we have a handful of wrestlers who are able to compete for conference, region and state medals,” Harris said.

“But this year, with the experience and effort that I’ve seen so far I think that we have an opportunity to be much more successful as a team.”

Mason’s wrestling team has its first competition at the King George Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Scholastic Bowl

Led by an untested roster, Mason’s Scholastic Bowl team has started off its season with a 6-0 record. Still, head coach Jamie Scharff is keeping things in perspective during the season’s early stages.

“Because we have a mostly brand new team…our goal is simply to improve continuously during the course of the year.” Scharff said.

Staking their claim in the district was one obstacle overcome, but regaining last year’s prominence might be out of reach for this team.

“We have a good chance to make it out of conference play and on to the East Region tournament in February,” Scharff said. “But making it to the state tournament will be the really difficult challenge this year with such an inexperienced team.”

Regardless of wins and losses, the team enjoys expanding their knowledge and will continue to do so. The Scholastic Bowl team will compete again on Dec. 7 against Clarke County and Central.

Swim & Dive

Both Boys and Girls Swim & Dive teams sit atop the throne as reigning Virginia 2A State Champions and look to continue their success this year.

“The boys were defending state champs so it felt good to get the repeat in,” head coach Jack Cashin said.

“And for the girls [who] finished second [the year before] against Maggie Walker…it was good for us to overcome them and be able to pull out the victory.”

The team’s goal this season is obvious: keep the state titles in Falls Church.

The Boys and Girls begin their defense of the state titles at Woodrow Wilson High School on Thursday, Dec. 3.

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