by Matthew Hochberg
Following an exciting fall sports campaign for George Mason High School, which included the volleyball team having one of their most successful seasons in the program’s history and a regionals appearance for the field hockey team, winter sports are now upon us.
From the basketball courts to the wrestling mats to the pools, coaches have high expectations and players are getting ready for their seasons. For the girls’ basketball team, this appears to be a championship or bust year, looking to use their momentum from last season to fill up the win column in 2017.
The reigning conference champions, with a rare nine-player junior class and two seniors, are looking to advance further than last season.
“My expectations are very clear this year: State Title,” head coach Mike Gilroy said. “We have the depth and talent to get there, but it has to be a collective effort from everyone if we are going to make that happen.”
Last season ended with a disappointing loss to Page County High School in the first round of regionals, leaving a bad taste for Gilroy and his team. The 15-9 squad, coming off a conference championship, had higher aspirations that they were unable to accomplish.
“We had a very bad loss to end last season in first round of regionals, and hopefully the girls remember what that feeling was like,” head coach Mike Gilroy said.
The Mustangs open the season at home on Tuesday, Nov. 29 against Tuscarora High School.
The boys’ basketball team is coming off a dream season. Mason went 29-1, advancing to the state semifinal behind a talented group of seven seniors, including Robert Tartt, who is now playing collegiate basketball at Marymount University. Head coach Chris Capannola will now have to adjust without most of his best players and team leaders from just one year ago.
“That group was one of the best to ever come through George Mason, and they were together for three years,” he said. “You don’t replace that, so we aren’t trying to do that. This team needs to find their own identity and take what they learned by watching last year’s group and apply it the best they can.”
Despite a new crop of players that Capannola expects to step up, there will be a learning curve. There is a lack of depth and a kind of uncertainty heading into the season the Mustangs didn’t appear to have last season. Still, Capannola expects a competitive team.
“We lost so many kids that we are starting from scratch, pretty much. We have fewer players for the same amount of minutes, and a different skill set team wise, so we’ve made quite a few changes,” he said. “This team will gain experience as we go, but there is talent here and some holdovers from last year’s team that will lead us. I look for us to be very competitive in the Bull Run and in Conference 35 again this year.”
Mason opens their season at home on Tuesday, Nov. 29 vs. Trinity School at Meadow View.
The Mustangs’ swim team is coming off a successful season, in which the boys’ group won the Division 2A East Regional while the girls’ team finished second in the same competition.
On the boys’ side, key seniors from last year’s roster such as Miller Surette and Christopher Markus have graduated but there are talented junior like Justin Britton and Daniel Reinfurt.
On the girls’ team, Francesca King and Julianne Kelly will be missed but a relatively young squad, including junior Hannah Rollins and sophomore Sigrid Edson will help to carry Mason. Both teams begin their season on Friday Dec. 9 in a meet against Central, Clarke County and Strasburg.
George Mason’s wrestling team must know what the boys’ basketball team is going through. After filling all 14 weight classes on the varsity roster for the first time in over a decade last year, head coach Bryan Harris lost ten of his fourteen wrestlers in the off-season due to graduation or general attrition.
Harris, though, is still encouraged this year. “Our message to the large group of new kids has been to focus on intensity, aggression and technique and worry about results later,” he said.
“Watching this group, most of whom have only been doing this for two weeks, I was impressed by how hard they worked in the scrimmage (Wednesday, Nov. 16 against Marshall and McLean). Despite the lack of experience, this is a team that has a lot of fight in them. They didn’t always know what to do but the things they did, they did all out.”
With Andrew Coulson as the most experienced wrestler of the pack, much of the leadership will fall on his shoulders. The other few seniors on the roster are new to the team and to the sport, therefore propelling sophomores into positions many underclassmen would not yet usually be called on.
“Jack Felgar and Connor Murray are coming back from last season and are already leading by example in terms of effort and discipline. I hope that by the end of the season they are able to step up and take on a more active role as team leaders,” he said.
Including Coulson, Felgar and Murray, sophomore Bryan Villegas will also be returning. Harris anticipates all of them to have strong seasons.
“Bryan Villegas (106), Connor Murray (132), Jack Felgar (138) and Andrew Coulson (170) will have very successful seasons and that all of our new kids will build a strong foundation to support the team in the next few years.”
Coaches from the swim team could not be reached for comment.