Sports

Finally Healthy, Mustangs Enter Playoffs with Confidence

JUNIOR FORWARD Fiona Howard was one of the many faces Mason was missing due to injury this season, but she appears to be getting healthy at the perfect time. (Photo: Carol Sly)

George Mason High School’s girls soccer team bowled over Clarke County High School 5-0 to end its regular season with a bang Tuesday night.

After enduring injuries and some youthful learning curves, the Mustangs (11-4-1) are finally starting to click at the right time with the Bull Run District tournament coming next week. There have been some questionable losses along the way — specifically a 7-0 thumping at the hands of Madison County High School just last week, who Mason should expect to see sometime next week. But the Mustangs appeared to channel the frustration of that loss out on the visiting Eagles. It helps when the squad is the closest it’s been to 100 percent all season, especially on the attack.

“The difference was [freshman midfielder] Zoraida [Icabalceta],” Mason head coach Leah Partridge said. “We didn’t have Zoraida the last time we were at Clarke County, so having her back plus playing on our field, which is a bit faster, was definitely the difference this time around.”

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Icabalceta imposed her will just minutes into the contest. Senior midfielder Maddie Lacroix connected with Icabalceta on a smooth feed that the freshman skipped into the back of the net just four minutes into the contest.

A period of frenzied attempts on goal followed for the next 25 or so minutes where Mason just couldn’t find the twine on any of its shots. Finally, a tic-tac-toe of passing between junior forward Emma Rollins, junior forward Gabriella Stevens and ending with a second goal from Icabalceta re-opened the floodgates at the 30-minute mark.

After a Clarke County defender headed a shot away from the empty net and the Eagles’ goalkeeper snatched a successive shot from breaking the scoring plane moments later, Rollins hooked up with Icabalceta again to complete the freshman’s hat trick by the 34th minute and put the Mustangs up 3-0. Stevens kept the goal warm when a pass from senior midfielder Maura Mann, which was completed thanks to a sly deflection by Rollins, had Mason go into halftime with a four-goal advantage.

Only one goal was scored in the second half by the Mustangs — it would be Icabalceta’s fourth after Lacroix found Mann who sent it along to the freshman for her fourth goal in the 52nd minute — but it was enough to dampen the spirits of the visiting Eagles. Clarke County had trouble making it across the midfield line without being harassed by Mason’s defenders in junior Julia Rosenberger and freshman Anna Williamson after the 5-0 deficit became a reality.

Now it’s onto the postseason and, ideally, a 12th consecutive state title for the Mustangs. For Partridge, there’s no secret to what will keep Mason trending in the right direction.

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“We need to keep playing the way we’re playing — fast-paced, good touches-to-feet soccer and always attacking the goal, especially when we’re in the box when we find a tendency to pass. The more we can take some shots when we’re in shooting the range the better we’ll be,” Partridge said.

Mason will host a to-be-determined opponent next week in the Bull Run semifinals.

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