The George Mason High School volleyball team faces another tough season against the various state powers that populate the Bull Run District, however new head coach Rwaida Alshagra is hoping that a focus on the basics will lead to success in the bigger picture.
Last season's Mason team got off to a fast start with a mark of 4-0 en route to a final record of 15-5. The record was largely due to the play of last year's seniors Brittany Head, Sabrina Whitney and Katie Mitchell, who accepted a scholarship to play volleyball for Columbia University in New York.
“I'm trying not to look at last year,” Alshagra said. “Our goals are to stress ball control, defense and keeping the ball in play.”
Alshagra, an assistant coach in 2006 who took over for last year's head coach Lauren Luck, hopes that the focus on those fundamentals will help develop a roster that features three sophomores and a freshman. She also plans to lean on her four seniors, Kate Root, Bailey Walton, Annie Zweighaft and Anna Lathrop, for leadership. To that end, she named Walton, Zweighaft and Lathrop captains.
“They've been good mentors and provided a very comfortable environment for the players getting called up from JV,” Alshagra said. “We have two sophomore starters and you could see that they were a little intimidated playing against opponents who are getting full volleyball scholarships.”
That last comment referred to Mason's first match of the year against Potomac Falls Tuesday night. The Mustangs fell by a score of 22-25, 21-25 and 17-25.
The opposition will likely not get any easier once Mason begins its schedule in the Bull Run District, where it will face annual powers Madison County and Rappahannock County. Rappahannock finished as last year's state runner up.
Given that degree of difficulty, Alshagra and her team are taking heart from the positives, with one oft-repeated comment from Tuesday's game serving buoying their spirits.
“A lot of people said that we played better as a team yesterday than we did last year,” Alshagra said.
The Mustangs take the court next Thursday, Aug. 30 on the road at Freedom. After that, they'll get a respite until Sept. 5 when they return home to face Briar Woods.
Other dates of interest include the J.E.B. Stuart Raider Rumble on Sept. 15 at Stuart, and home matches against Clarke, Rappahannok and Madison County on successive Tuesdays from Oct. 9 – 23.