by Matt Delaney
Claiming the 2A East region’s top seed for this weekend’s Virginia High School League’s state tournament after moving past Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School 4-1 in the region semifinal and Goochland High School 9-1 in the region final, George Mason’s varsity girls soccer team eyes a ninth consecutive state title.
But not long ago this tradition of excellence appeared in jeopardy. An early season tie with Warren County High School and a loss to Clarke County High School just before the postseason were pockmarks on an 18-2-1 record.
However, the fear of one blunderful game ruining their storied state title run drove Mason to get creative leading up to the “win or go home” regional showdown against longtime rival Maggie Walker.
“We made a special video to pump us up [and] watched World Cup highlights of the [United States’] women’s team,” senior midfielder Corinne Carson said. “We just really tried to focus on how much we put into the season and how we could do it as long as we work together.”
It appeared the national team’s winning ways rubbed off on Mason. Both teams made the their opponents uncomfortable with viable scoring chances in a contested opening fifteen minutes, until the Mustangs finally got ahead when junior midfielder Rebecca Crouch fed Carson’s only goal.
Maggie Walker was unfazed by the deficit and kept pestering Mason with occasional charges into their zone. A defensive foul set up a Maggie Walker free kick from roughly 25 yards out, which was rifled past sophomore goalkeeper Laura Whitaker to even the tally just before halftime.
Sophomore forward Izzy Armstrong gave Mason the lead back when she footed a Crouch corner kick out of mid air early in the second half.
Later on Armstrong displayed her playmaking abilities when she got behind Maggie Walker’s defense and sent a shallow cross to sophomore midfielder Victoria Rund, who put the Mustangs up 3-1. In the 66th minute Armstrong iced the game when she arced a pretty shot over Maggie Walker’s goalkeeper and under the crossbar.
“It was a great game for her, and it has been a really good tournament for her [too].” head coach Allison Klink said. “Izzy, just throughout the season, has continued to get better.”
The excitement found in the regional semifinal against Maggie Walker was lost in the final against Goochland.
The game was stopped for an hour rain delay barely 15 minutes in and Mason already held a 2-0 lead. After the delay ended, the Mustangs never gave up the lead.
Mason will face Richlands High School in the state semifinal on Friday, June 10 at Salem High School.