Sports

Mason Girls Soccer Wins District Championship

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George Mason High School’s varsity girls soccer team won a classic overtime league championship match last week, and then cruised to an easy 4-0 win in a first-round regional playoff match-up on Monday.

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The George Mason varsity girls soccer team pauses for a photo with the Bull Run District Tournament Championship Trophy, held by senior captain Kelly Frank. Front row, left to right: Leah Roth, Nicole Mitchell, Frank, Nicole Philbin, Veronica O’Rourke, Maddy McAllister, Rebecca Thackrey. Second row, left to right: assistant coach Allie Moriarty, Karen Hamill, Elle Silverman, Annie Geren. Back row, left to right: Coach Jenn Parsons, Violet Miller, Nicole Peyton, Katie Breen, Camille Darling, Maggie Mascarenhas, Hailey Thomas, Shelley Gresko, Hannah Shenouda, Savannah Ruiz, Krystal Le, Taylor Ford, Hannah Walker. (Photo: News-Press)

George Mason High School’s varsity girls soccer team won a classic overtime league championship match last week, and then cruised to an easy 4-0 win in a first-round regional playoff match-up on Monday.

With the Bull Run District title on the line, George Mason goalie and soccer novice Nicole Mitchell faced the first shoot-out of her life on Thursday.

Mitchell is a Mason hoops star who expects to play basketball in college next year. She only began playing soccer last year, but rapidly became a dynamo in the net for the Mustangs too, and her nervy play allowed Mason to deadlock Clarke County High 0-0 in the district championship game after 100 minutes of play, forcing a best-of-five penalty kick shoot-out for the league tournament title.

Mitchell dove to the ground to stuff the first two shots she faced, and Violet Miller, Nicole Peyton and Leah Roth all hit their shots to push the Mustangs past the Mountaineers.

Madison fell to 15-3-1 on the year with the loss, and Mason improved to 12-5-1.

In part because Mitchell had never been in a shoot-out before, the Mustangs spent the end of their practice before the title tilt working on penalty shots.

“I guess it’s a good thing we did,” remarked coach Jennifer Parsons, a former standout player at Virginia Commonwealth University and a recent member of the Washington Freedom, a professional team.

Parsons said that stopping consecutive penalty shots “is unheard of. Goalkeepers have hardly any chance on a penalty kick. We’ve worked with Nicole a lot on penalties and she’s so competitive that she has the mentality that she can stop every shot. She’s like no player I’ve ever coached before. She demands perfection from herself, and she really is a great keeper. The shoot-out put the game in her hands. She’s really, really good under pressure.”

Mason had already won the Bull Run District regular season championship, and the Mustangs are also two-time defending state champions, but the team was anything but blase about capturing another trophy: Roth’s decisive shot triggered an unbridled celebration on the field.

The game was a showcase of different styles of soccer: Madison played a “boot and run” fast-break-based offensive style, while Mason advanced the ball through adroit short passes.

Mason seemed the stronger team, dominating possession of the ball and putting more pressure on Madison’s goalie, Tori Puryear, than Mitchell faced, but Puryear was able to earn the shutout as the Mountaineer D forced the Mustangs to rely on outside shots and the Mustangs blasted several good shots just wide of the goal.

“I think we possess the ball very well, but they were a very tough defense to penetrate,” Parsons said. “They tried to transition on us and play that long ball over the top and catch us off-guard. But I think possession-wise we probably had it 90 percent of the time. It seemed like a very uneven game.”

Senior defender Shelley Gresko was a major key for Mason on both ends of the field. Gresko continually stopped the Mountaineers’ attack, gained control of the ball and quickly advanced it up the field with a sharp pass to a sprinting teammate.

“She’s not a player who puts a lot of stats up, but she is a huge part of our success,” Peyton said of Gresko. “She’s a workhorse and a fighter. And Nicole Peyton (another senior defender) does the same thing. They’re consistently strong.”

Peyton and Gresko would find their way onto the stat sheet in George Mason’s next contest; both tallied as the Mustangs shot down the Stonewall Jackson Generals 4-0 in a quarterfinal Region B playoff game at George Mason High on Monday, May 31.

In that game, play was even through the very early going, but as the first half wore on, Mason began to assert control and pressure the Generals’ goalie, and with about nine minutes left before intermission senior mid-fielder Karen Hamill scored the game-winner after an impressive individual effort.

Hamill drove down the sideline and used a series of inside-out fakes to free herself up for a well-struck shot from about 20 yards out.

After halftime, the Mustangs  looked even stronger.

With 33:25 left a wide-open Gresko put the Mustangs up 2-0 when she one-timed an outside shot.

Four minutes later, Peyon made it 3-0 when she scored on a penalty kick, and Hannah Walker put the Mustangs up 4-0 with 4:50 left.

Following the championship game, the Mustangs received a slew of individual honors.

Parsons was named Bull Run District Coach of the Year, and Mason junior Violet Miller was named the league’s Player of the Year.

Miller follows Mason’s Kim Kenney, the league’s MVP in 2009, and Olivia Scott, the 2008 MVP.

This is Miller’s third time on the All-District First Team.

Mason junior Elle Silverman was also named to the All-District First Team. Parsons called Silverman “an incredibly smart player who distributes the ball very well. She is also a central midfielder and is our glue on the field between our defense and attackers.”

This is the third consecutive year that Silverman was named to the Bull Run District’s First Team. She was on the All-State First Team last year as well.

The Mustangs’ leading scorer this year, sophomore Leah Roth, was also named to the Bull Run District First Team. Roth had 13 goals and seven assists in the regular season.

After being named to the Bull Run Second Team last season, Mason junior Hannah Walker, who Parsons calls “an incredibly hard-working player,” was honored as part of the First Team this year. Walker had seven goals and six assists in the regular season.

George Mason captain Karen Hamill, a senior, was named to the Second Team, as was senior defender Nicole Peyton.