The last time the George Mason High School varsity volleyball team took on Rappahannock High, the defending state runner-up, the Panthers put a thorough beating into the young Mason squad. Last Tuesday’s match, however, while the Mustangs still fell in three straight sets, their improvement demonstrates how well they have progressed throughout the year.
This game, the Panthers beat the host Mustangs 25-19, 25-20 and 25-16. Throughout each set though, the game went back and forth between the two squads, but it was a powerful and relentless attack on the part of the Rappahannock front line that wore down the younger, less experienced Mustangs.
In the first game, numerous unforced errors put Mason down early, as errant serves and poor hits put them in a seven-point hole early. Down six later in the game, Mason stormed back to make it 17-15, but a Panther run quelled the Mustang rally.
Throughout the second match, vicious spikes by Panthers Elena Kritter and Noel Johns once again put their squad ahead for good. Up 9-8 at one point in the match, Mason’s first and only lead of the entire night proved to be ephemeral. Although the set was actually tied at three points late in the match, the defending district champion Panthers pulled away at the right time, winning 25-20. Rappahannock cruised in the third game to secure the win.
Despite the loss, Mason Head Coach Rwaida Alshagra noted some positives.
[Sophomore] Ashley Dahl had an awesome game tonight,” said Alshagra. “Her defense and serving were great, as she had 11 serves in on the night.”
Alshagra also raved about the efforts of a trio of seniors in Kate Root, Annie Zweighaft, and Anna Lathrop. Lathrop had three aces on the night, while 91 percent of her serves landed in. Zweighaft was referred to by Alshagra as the “most consistent hitter on the team” as well.
The Mustangs received a better result last Thursday, when Mason defeated Manassas Park in four sets. It was the second victory over the Cougars by the Mustangs this season.
Zweighaft led the effort from the service line with seven aces, while Root added four of her own. Bailey Walton led the team with 10 kills.
However, to be a competitor in the fast-approaching district tournament, Alshagra highlighted the various improvements that her squad needs to make following the match against Rappahannock.
“We definitely have to speed up our game to get where we want to be,” said Alshagra. “That’s basically the reason why we lost tonight. They were just faster than us and that is a big weakness of ours.”
With the loss, Mason falls to 3-10 on the year, but looks to continue its improvement this Thursday at Strasburg High. They close out the Bull Run District regular season next week with matches against Madison County and Clarke County.