Sports

Mason High Girls Cruise to Conference 35 Final

Scanning the field is senior defender Megan Butler, who notched a goal and an assist in Mason’s 9-0 win over Stonewall Jackson High School on Tuesday in the Conference 35 tourney opener. (Photo: Carol Sly)

George Mason High School’s varsity girls soccer team burst into the postseason by winning its first two matches against Clarke County High School, 3-0, and Stonewall Jackson High School, 9-0, to advance to the Conference 35 championship today (Thursday) against Central High School in Falls Church..

This week marks the beginning of Mason’s (17-1) journey to something special. At the end of the road in mid-June awaits not only another 2A state title, but an astounding tenth consecutive title. It would make Mason’s program a dynasty unlike any other.

Though first they have to make it out their own Conference, and Clarke County wasn’t pulling punches in the semifinal match Tuesday night. After a strong first half, the heavily-favored Mustangs began to waiver.

“We had more energy in the first half. Once we got up a little bit, we started to relax and let our guard down,” sophomore midfielder Maura Mann said. “We need to work on keeping our energy up, and we need to take better shots because all of them were going right to the goalkeeper.”

Mason hit the ground running in the first half. Mann got things going with a goal on an assist from junior forward Izzy Armstrong to put the Mustangs ahead. Keeping the offensive pressure up was Mann again, this time as a distributor, when she connected with the streaking freshman midfielder Fiona Howard who followed through on her shot to notch Mason’s second goal. Capping off the run was Armstrong who sent a strike past the Eagles’ goalkeeper after a slick pass from Mann got her into favorable position.

By the start of the second half the Mustangs had lost enough of their edge to give Clarke County a fighter’s chance. Mason’s offensive possessions ended with passive shots directly to the Eagles’ goaltender while Clarke County nearly capitalized on some fast breaks had it not been for some daring maneuvers by junior goalkeeper Laura Whitaker to preserve the Mustangs lead. When the final whistle sounded Clarke County didn’t shrink Mason’s 3-0 advantage at all, but it gave the Mustangs a scare.

A day before against Stonewall Jackson, Mason flat-out dominated. The goals came early and often, with ball movement and solid spacing clearing the way for the eventual 9-0 decision. With the Conference 35 title in sight and a regional berth secured, Mason now has to be sure to rest their bodies. Three games in four days with a most players participating in club tournaments over the long weekend leaves the team at risk for exhaustion come the regional opener.

“We’ll focus on what we need to focus on at practice, but we’re not over-working it.” head coach Allison Klink said. “They all need to take care of themselves and their bodies. Club soccer’s important for a lot of them if they want to play in college, so hydrating, icing and make sure everyone’s healthy moving forward.”

The Mustangs play Central High School for the Conference 35 title before opening the regional tourney at home next Tuesday, May 29.