Sports

Mason Soccer Teams Fight to Defend State Champion Titles

DSC_0874There’s a bullseye pointed in the direction of the boys and girls soccer teams at Mason High School, and it’s coming from teams itching for a chance to knock off the defending state champs.

The boys won the 2009 Group A Virginia State title, and the girls are two-time defending champions. The pressure is on, and opponents are guaranteed to give the Mustangs their best shot.

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Mustang senior Nick Smirniotopoulos (left). (Photo: Tracy Back)

There’s a bullseye pointed in the direction of the boys and girls soccer teams at Mason High School, and it’s coming from teams itching for a chance to knock off the defending state champs.

The boys won the 2009 Group A Virginia State title, and the girls are two-time defending champions. The pressure is on, and opponents are guaranteed to give the Mustangs their best shot.

 

“Everyone is eying to upset the defending champs,” said girls soccer coach Jennifer Parsons, in her fourth year. “It’s tough to have a bullseye on you. They’d love to beat us.”

So far early in the season, the girls are 2-0, with a 4-1 win over South Lakes and a 1-0 victory against Potomac Falls. The team’s philosophy during the preseason, before district play begins, is to schedule tough competition from larger, double A schools.

“I try to get as many games with bigger, better programs,” Parsons said. “It’s a good preseason test for us to play teams that are going to challenge us.”

The girls graduated eight seniors from last year’s title-winning team, but are returning six seniors this year. However, it’s a pair of juniors that Parsons is looking towards to pace the squad: Violet Miller was all-state last season and the Mustangs leading scorer, and Elle Silverman was also named all-state last season.

Senior Nicole Mitchell, fresh off anchoring the girls basketball team that recently won the state championship, returns as goalkeeper.

After losing eight seniors, Parsons’ early-season goal is to eastablish a cohesiveness in the squad.

“I think we need to mold into a full team,” she said. “It needs to be a team effort.”

And if that happens, the rest of the state should look out.

“We definitely have a chance to defend all our titles,” Parsons said, referencing not only state, but the more immediate district and regional levels as well.

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Mustang junior midfielder Harris Schaffer. (Photo: Tracy Back)

The Mason boys soccer team is in a similar circumstance. In addition to winning it all last year, the team is riding a 23-game unbeaten streak. The Mustangs went 19-0 last year, and are 1-0-3 this season, including a 1-0 victory over Brentsville last week.

“We’ve done well against the triple-A clubs,” said Mason head coach Art Iwanicki. His philosophy is the same as that of Parsons: Line up the best opponents early on before district play begins. “We try to schedule the best competition we can.”

The Mustang boys return a solid core group of players. Third-year starter junior Tyler Back has returned as goalkeeper, as is last year’s leading scorer senior Nick Smirniotopoulos. Four-year starters Alex Casteuble and Andrew Arias, as well as third-year starter Patrick Rollo, round out the main group.

Having a player like Back with three year’s starting experience in goal is what should anchor the Mustangs.

“We went with him as a freshman,” said Iwanicki, in his 11th year. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but it worked out fine.”

Even with a solid group back and early-season seasoning, the Mustangs know that winning another championship is not a given.

“There’s one thing harder than winning a state championship, and that’s repeating as state champions,” said Iwanicki.

The next home match for the girls is Thursday at 7 p.m. against Loundoun Valley High, and the boys are at home next on April 6 at 7 p.m. against Rappahannock County High.