Mason Athletes Prep For Fall Sports Season

September 7, 2017 11:50 AM0 comments

CREATING SEPARATION from his competition at the Gettysburg Cross Country Invitational is senior Mason runner Griffin Warner. (Photo: Carol Sly)

As the summer heat subsides and school begins another year, it signals the arrival of the fall sports season at George Mason High School. The Mustangs have varying sets of aspirations, from state qualifiers to dignified rebuilds, and the student athletes have the moxie to help accomplish each of the goals on the way. All the teams have already begun their seasons in the weeks prior to school’s official start this past Tuesday, so without further ado, let’s jump into the preview.

Boys and Girls Cross Country

Another season and another batch of promise is in play for George Mason’s boys and girls cross country team led by head coach Jeff Buck. Last year, both teams qualified for the 2A State meet, marking the eighth time in the last nine years for the boys and the 18th consecutive year for the Mustang girls. The team’s history of high achievement makes any improvement a major feat, so simply maintaining the status quo of state qualifications is the bare minimum expected of this year’s runners.

“The goals for both of the squads are to maintain the excellence the programs have developed over the years,” Bucks said. “The girls are determined to be four-time district champs, finish top two in the region and top two in the state. The boys are motivated to finish top three in the district and qualify for states as a team.”

Though reaching their peak won’t be without its hurdles. Local rivals in Clarke County High School for the girls and Clarke and Central High School for the boys will be bumping elbows with Mason all along the district, regional and state levels of competition. The girls have the experience to match their opponents with six seniors, including top runner Logan Funk, returning to the course, but the boys will have to learn as they go with Bill Comstock leading a talented top four after seven of the top ten runners graduated last year.

Mason looks for its first taste of action on Sept. 11 to gauge how equipped the Mustangs are for a deep run into November.

Field Hockey

Entering their fifth year in existence, George Mason High School’s field hockey team is witnessing its original eighth graders take the reins of the program and lead the charge in overall development. It’s a welcome sign that field hockey is catching fire in Falls Church and putting faith in those who follow the sport that the best is yet to come from the Mustangs.

“The whole team has been working really hard during this preseason and everyone is super excited to show all of our hard work and energy to our community,” junior fullback Alex Biggs said.

Mason won’t have to wait any longer to show off their skill though as the season is already underway with an early 1-2 record. After a tight 2-0 road loss to Arlington County’s Washington-Lee High School, the Mustangs bounced back with a 3-1 win at home over Bayside High School before falling to 2A regional opponent Maggie Walker Governor’s School, 5-1. It hasn’t been an ideal opening stretch of the season, but head coach Amanda Crider is working toward the team embracing their potential which will hopefully come to the fore by the season’s end.

A parallel goal is to make sure the team is living up to the school’s expectations of being champions of character. If the Mustangs can learn positive habits of relying on each other during on and off the field for assistance, then in game objectives of circle penetration, shots on goal and proper positioning on saves will follow suit.

Mason has this week off and will resume competition Monday, Sept. 11, against Bishop O’Connell High School.

MOUNTING THE OFFENSIVE is junior forward Kayleigh Zigler in Mason’s 5-1 loss to Maggie Walker Governor School on Aug. 28. (Photo: Dee Dee Zigler)

Football

A hearty bout of optimism for George Mason’s 2016 football team predated an eight game losing streak that put a sour taste in the squad’s mouth after ending the season 2-8. Aiming to put that firmly in the team’s rearview mirror, this year’s Mustangs are primed to make good on the energy provided by a new, young coaching staff led by head coach Adam Amerine.

Early returns are promising, as Mason drubbed Annandale’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, 34-3, on the road on Aug. 31. The senior-heavy team has demonstrated they have the experience to handle a variety of in-game situations. But after last year’s losing skid Amerine is putting pressure on himself and his staff to re-instill the confidence that winning football can be played in Falls Church City by acknowledging weaknesses and adjusting the team’s style accordingly.

“The number one obstacle is depth. We can compete with anyone for a few quarters but injuries and fatigue catch up with us in games and during the season and really hampers our ability to win,” Amerine said. “We are going back to a ball control offense and we are going to strive to be an opportunistic defense and create scoring chances on that side of the ball to overcome these challenges.”

A schedule that has four district opponents who won a playoff game in 2016 will be tough for the Mustangs to handle. Regardless, Mason is up to task, lest they want a repeat of last year.

The Mustangs will have their home opener against Sidwell Friends High School this Friday, Sept. 8.

Golf

The gentleman’s game is in full swing as the George Mason golf team is already five matches into the year and holds a 1-4 record. While they may not be in the perfect lie record-wise, head coach Chris Carrico knows it’s what comes with the territory with a mix of experienced and inexperienced players who make up the roster.

“Moving forward I hope that players’ scores improve because we have gotten a couple of weeks of practices under our belt,” Carrico said. “We’ve been working on improving course management and doing drills in order to improve ball striking and shot making abilities. The team is dedicated to getting better.”

That doesn’t mean the Mustangs are without something to hold its hat(s) on. Seniors Claire Trundle, George Gilligan and Will Gaskins lead a team in which Gaskins, Gilligan and junior Nick Wells all return from a 2016 season where they individually qualified for regionals. And as a team, they’ve been on the uptick after defeating Madison County High School 206-204 following a string of narrow defeats to other district rivals Clarke County (186-185) and Strasburg (200-187).

The amount of beginners on the team presents a natural challenge to Carrico, but it’s one he enjoys. The fruits of his labor will be born eventually, but for now it’s about getting the Mustangs in position to succeed in the long run.

Mason will play Central High School next Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Volleyball

For the past two years, George Mason’s volleyball team has been thwarted by home regional tournament openers where playoff runs were cut short. Even though the Mustangs went into both those games with Conference titles in tow, getting over the hump of a regional tournament win and gaining some traction among area competition has become one of few key objectives for this year’s squad.

Entering her third season as head coach, Hillary Trebels recognizes that Mason has the depth to challenge teams. The Mustangs return 11 players to their rotation, including a couple that come equipped with volleyball experience prior to stepping on the court for Mason. However, a key area to emphasize is keeping the Mustangs’ morale high when other teams go on runs. In the past, Mason has struggled to rebound when opponents begin to rack up points. Trebels wants to see the team play with consistent energy, focus and enthusiasm in matches.

“We’ve got a group of seniors who have been with the program the last five years, so winning a regional match would be a good place to start in terms of accomplishable goals,” Trebels said.

So far, Mason has fallen to an 1-2 record. Though the season is still young and the gelling process is nowhere near as complete as it will be come November. Expect for these Mustangs to be on the upswing by then.

Mason will play Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology today.

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