Lady Mustangs Advance to State Soccer Final on PKs
When senior Olivia Scott entered George Mason High School two years ago, she was given the nickname “Mulan,” more a tribute to her half-Korean heritage than to the heroic qualities associated with the protagonist of the 1998 Disney film. Now, the moniker has become even more fitting, as the Region B and Bull Run District Player of the Year secured a Mustang victory on penalty kicks on Friday for the second time in three weeks, sending Mason to a triumphant and vengeful win over Radford High School in the Group A girls state semifinals, 1-1 (5-4).
With a demeanor as calm and collected as her animated counterpart, Scott stoically deposited the ball past outstretched Radford goalie Desi Simmons for the fifth Mustang goal in penalty kicks and, much like Mulan, avenged her comrades’ deaths a year earlier.
Last season, Mason fell to Radford 1-0 in the state semifinals in an eerily similar situation. However, this time the Mustangs were able to rebound from an early Bobcat goal and, when Scott drilled the final penalty kick, were able to shake off the memories of last season’s loss.
“Olivia has been clutch all season,” said Mason Head Coach Jennifer Parsons, referring to the district final two weeks ago against Clarke County, in which Scott clinched the title with a penalty kick. “Last year they [Radford] scored on us first, and we couldn’t get that goal. We just wanted it so badly this year.”
Coming into the contest, Mason swept through the Region B tournament, winning by a 32-0 goal margin, but a tough Bobcat defense, focused on denying the Mustang forwards from turning the corner, held their opposition to a scoreless first half at Dedmon Center Field at Radford University.
For the entire first 40 minutes, both teams tried to use their speed to play indirect balls through their outside forwards, but the respective defenses proved too stingy to provide many open looks by either squad.
In the 14th minute, Radford sophomore Pip Pattison nailed the top of the goal post from inside the 18. Five minutes later, Mustang freshman Elle Silverman sent a blast from the top of the box which, coupled by the blaring sun, slipped through Simmons’ hands. However, Silverman’s shot hit the top of the crossbar and dropped to the ground just outside the goal line.
The Bobcats came out firing in the opening sequences of the second half, as a couple long runs began to chip away at the Mason defense.
Radford High struck first in the de facto championship game when given a free kick with under 20 minutes left in regulation off of a Mustang penalty. Just before the kick, Bobcat coach Lee Boehling took Pattison off the ball and sent senior Lilli Benck to launch the long shot attempt. The decision promptly paid off, as the VCU recruit launched an offering from 45 yards out that snuck by Mason goalie Faunice Rebecca Jackson’s outstretched hands and trickled into the net.
For a while, it seemed as though Mason would come within striking distance of a goal, much like they did last year, only to fall just short. With 14:50 left, junior Mayssa Chehata hit the crossbar from inside the 18-yard box, and a running header by Scott with 11:19 left in the second half sailed just high.
However, with 9:44 left in the contest, Mason senior Rachel Kazman scored the equalizer off a left-footed rocket into the left panel, coming off an errant Radford deflection. With the goal, the Mustangs were able to do something they could not manage last year: score on Three Rivers District player of the year Simmons.
In an up-and-down physical contest by both teams, the referees were surprisingly lenient. Scott earned the only yellow card of the game off a push with 3:38 left in the first half. Silverman also exited the game 20 seconds later after landing awkwardly on her right wrist. She was put into an air-cast on the sidelines and taken to a hospital. X-rays indicated a broken arm.
The two five-minute overtime periods proved just as exciting as the 80 minutes of regulation, the best look for either team coming with 30 seconds left, when Kazman launched a ground ball that harmlessly settled in the hands of Simmons.
In the two golden goal periods, it was Radford’s turn to put the pressure on, as a rocket by junior Mary Wiley barely sailed over the goal. In the latter sudden-death five minutes, Bobcat Alex Gillespie missed a wide-open opportunity for the win.
It was a quick end to an arduous match between two teams evenly matched in every facet of the game, but it ended up being an errant penalty kick by Wiley that made the difference.
Tori Faulkner of Radford converted first on a grounded shot into the right panel, followed by freshman Violet Miller of Mason, who fired a perfect ball into the left frame past Simmons. That set the stage for Wiley, who rocketed the shot wide right. For Radford, Pattison, Maddy Denny, and Benck notched goals. Kazman and juniors Tegan Argo and Kim Kenny all converted as well, bringing Scott into the box to seal the victory for the Mustangs.
“All I had to think about at that moment was blocking everything out,” said Scott. “It was just something that had to be done. We just wanted to do it for each other, for my amazing coaches. We just wanted to stay together for one more day.”
On paper, Mason dominated the offensive statistics, outshooting Radford 14-5. However, many of those were long Mustang efforts by Kazman and Silverman meant to put pressure on Simmons. According to Boehling, his squad was simply unable to win the 50-50 balls in the second half, never fully gained control of the middle of the field, and likened the Bobcats’ style of play more to a “kick ball game” than to a soccer match.
“The fact is that George Mason is better than we are,” commented Boehling. “They’re a great team, and they deserve to be the state champions.”
“It’s what we’ve been working for since last June [when Mason lost to Radford],” said Jackson. “I’m just so proud of everyone on our team. We’ve worked so hard, and I think that we deserve this win.”
Their demons quelled, the Mustangs now will take on Region B runner-up Goochland High in the state finals on Saturday at 10 a.m. Mason blasted the Bulldogs, 11-0, to win the Region title on May 30. Should they down Goochland, Mason would capture their first state title since 2004, when they beat Clarke County 3-1 in the finals.
“This win just shows the heart on our team,” concluded Parsons. “We have five amazing seniors leading the team, especially Rachel [Kazman], who’s been on the team for four years and won states as a freshman. We’ve worked so hard to become a little family on the field. Today we stepped up big.”