by Matt Delaney
A 4-3 loss to Clarke County High School on the final day of the regular season gave George Mason’s varsity girls soccer team a noticeable edge heading into the Conference 35 tournament as they soundly defeated Strasburg High School 8-0 and Madison County High School 9-0 in the quarter and semifinals to start the week.
Slow starts can often damn even the best teams, which was exactly the case against Clarke County last Friday. The Eagles held a 2-0 lead early in the second half, and though Mason came back to tie them twice in the final 32 minutes, the Mustangs couldn’t snag the win, ending their 12-game win streak.
“We didn’t show up with our best foot forward to start the game and they capitalized on that,” head coach Allison Klink said. “If you don’t play 100 percent that happens.”
The shock from a surprise defeat jolted Mason back into the blue-collar mindset that helped them buck their unstable beginning to the season.
Mason rediscovered their winning ways when facing Strasburg. Possession was a constant for their offense and the Mustangs were able to control a porous Rams defense. First strike came soon into the game when senior midfiedler Kate Mills’ shot was rebounded by junior midfielder Rebecca Crouch for a goal five minutes in.
Crouch scored Mason’s second goal ten minutes later after recovering another loose ball in the box. Mills sniped a shot from outside the box, while sophomore forward Izzy Armstrong and senior midfielder Corinne Carson put their own attempts in the back of the net to bring the Mustangs to 5-0 lead by half. Mills and Carson scored again in the second half followed by an own goal from Strasburg finished off the scoring for the night.
The Mustangs maintained their stride against Madison County the following evening. Crouch knocked the first and third goals in for Mason, with Carson’s goal sandwiched in between. Armstrong, Mills and an own goal by the Mountaineers had Mason safely ahead by half. Crouch, sophomore midfielder Hannah Rollins and senior defender Caroline Stricker tallied the remaining goals for the Mustangs.
With the win over Madison County Tuesday night, Mason punched their ticket for a Conference 35 finals showdown against none other than Clarke County. A chance to exact their revenge so soon is a just what the Mustangs have been asking for.
“I’m so excited to play them,” Mills said. “Our mentality has changed a lot. We wanna start off every game really strong.” Mason plays Clarke County for the Conference 35 crown on Thursday at home.