As they enter the heart of the postseason, George Mason High School’s girls soccer team appears stronger with each game after moving past East Rockingham High School in the Regional opener and Clarke County High School in the Bull Run District championship.
This is a different Mustangs (13-3-1) team than the one from just two weeks ago. Back then in the Dark Ages, Mason was squeaking out tense wins over teams they’d dominated in years past. Now the Mustangs play with a vigor and unity that was absent from their earlier contests and is manifesting in more effective and intuitive squad on the pitch.
“They need to understand that everyone is instrumental to us winning. If [the opponent] closes the door on us, we can still work around and break a window to get in,” Mason head coach George Bitadze said. “We’re figuring out what opponents are giving us instead of just hammering at them with the same approach.”
Mason’s synchronization was hard to ignore in its 8-1 win over East Rockingham Monday night, but it took a while warming up. For nearly 20 minutes the Mustangs were a step slow and softballing passes to one another, allowing the less talented Eagles to keep pace with them. That was until junior midfielder Maddie Lacroix sent a high-arcing pass to a sprinting senior Sophie Matton in the 17th minute, who buried her shot on goal. Five minutes later freshman midfielder Emilia Cipriano showed a little gamesmanship when her sharp left-to-right cross went off an aggressive East Rockingham defender and into Eagles’ net for an own goal.
Sophomore midfielder Helen Morris got involved when she fed a shot to senior midfielder Victoria Rund to give Mason a 3-0 advantage. The Mustangs were headed for a clean first half until a momentary lapse on defense let the Eagles in on a rush for their first and only tally right before the intermission.
Undeterred, Mason regained their stride as soon as the final 40 minutes began. Rund scored right away, and after senior goalkeeper Laura Whitaker hemmed a breakaway opportunity from East Rockingham, Rund was the center of the action again when she assisted sophomore forward Fiona Howard’s goal minutes later. Rund converted a penalty kick in the 69th minute before junior midfielder Maura Mann and Rund herself assisted on consecutive Cipriano goals to cap off the scoring.
It was a monumental showing. And it was preceded by a game against Clarke County on May 24 — a team that tied Mason on its home turf a month ago and scrapped to the end of a 2-1 Mustangs win to end the regular season.
A handy 5-1 margin assured the district rival that Mason still reigned supreme until someone made it otherwise.
“We need to keep showing that we can’t take things for granted,” Bitadze continued. “If we play honestly and as a team we’ll continue to accomplish our goals.”
The Mustangs faced Madison County High School last night in the regional semifinal, but results weren’t available by press time.