George Mason High School’s girls soccer team started the postseason on the right foot after taking down Central High School 3-0 Tuesday night on a rain-soaked field.
The conditions brought some problems for the Mustangs (11-3) but they overcame the slick turf and slippery ball to turn out a complete performance that has Mason eyeing a Bull Run District championship in tonight’s contest.
“I had no doubts about this game, but I didn’t want to put that in [the players’] heads because that can play tricks on an athlete’s mind,” Mason head coach George Bitadze said. “With [Central] winning last night, you never know if [the Falcons] are going to be tired from yesterday’s game or even more prepared to play, so I didn’t want to build any expectations for our team. I just wanted them to ready from the start and they were.”
Mason got things going right off the bat when senior midfielder Victoria Rund sent a touch pass to junior midfielder Maura Mann who was parallel with her. Mann carried the ball into a clearing and put the Mustangs on the board in just a few minutes into the match.
Though controlling the clock and a majority of the possessions, Mason wouldn’t strike again until midway through the first half. Some swift ball movement helped the Mustangs establish a presence deep in Central’s defensive zone, where sophomore forward Emma Rollins’ one-timer was set up by senior midfielder Sophie Matton’s quick pass from the wing and junior midfielder Maddie Lacroix’s hockey assist from the top of the box that spurred the scoring sequence.
Rund would finally get her opportunity to tally a goal in the 48th minute. A Falcons possession ended near Mason’s penalty box when a booming clear went skyward toward midfield. Rund perfectly timed the ball’s landing near the center circle, found an opening between three Central defenders and hit the gas to separate from them before finishing her one-on-one chance against the Falcons’ goalkeeper.
“We needed to show [Central] that we were in charge,” Bitadze continued. “In our first game against them we won 2-1, and in our second we won 1-0 so in our third we had as many goals from the first two games combined and didn’t allow them to score.”
Where Bitadze and the Mustangs will find room to improve is in the offensive zone. Mason controlled the ball, and by extension, the tempo throughout the game with relative ease. However, generating legitimate and controlled scoring chances eluded the team up until the final whistle.
Bitadze’s year-long experiments with line-up and strategy changes wasn’t the culprit since he kept players where they were most comfortable during the match. Instead, he felt it was the Mustangs’ mental approach that needed some adjusting.
“They need patience. If something is not there, whether it be a shot or a pass, they don’t need to force it. Every time we get near the net we put pressure on ourselves to go for the goal, but as long as we maintain possession and slow the game down, better scoring chances will come around.” Bitadze added.
Mason is set to play the winner of the Clarke County High School/Madison High School County game tonight at home, since their Tuesday match was postponed to Wednesday due to rain.