At the sixth annual Raiders Rumble at JEB Stuart High School last Saturday, the George Mason High School varsity volleyball team showed little fear at the prospect of competing in a tournament with seven schools in the larger AAA-classification of the Virginia High School League.
After surrendering their first two matches against JEB Stuart and Oakton High Schools, the Mustangs won their final game in round robin play and won both games in the consolation bracket to take fifth place out of eight teams.
“It was a little discouraging at first, but I knew that they would come together and pull off some wins,” said team parent and spectator Lisa Myklestad.
In the best-of-three-games style tournament, the Mustangs lost the opener to JEB Stuart 25-12 and 25-15, and their second game to Oakton 25-14 and 25-19.
The team then turned their misfortune around by defeating the Marshall Statesmen 25-14, 25-19. Senior Natalie Farrell led the team with six aces in the match, including the winning ace to the first game. Fourteen points were won on Farrell’s serve. Senior Nicole Philbin contributed four aces as well.
“Our highlight definitely has to be our serves,” said Coach Erik Healey after the Marshall win.
Senior Maddie Johnson was also integral to the victory in her role as setter. She finished the tournament with 53 assists.
The Mustangs quickly disposed of Wakefield, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the first game before winning in two games.
“When they’re happy, they’re like a machine. They play better,” said Assistant Coach Mark Sokolowski about the team’s ability to find a rhythm.
The Mustangs had little time for celebration against Wakefield, gathering their belongings quickly and changing locations for their immediate game against Mount Vernon for fifth place.
Giving up easy points, the Mustangs appeared to take a while to adjust as The Majors took an early 5-2 lead. With senior Rachel Bell at the serve, the Mustangs rebounded with an 8-2 run. From that point on, both sides played evenly with the Majors squeeking out a first-game victory by three points when a strategically placed tip went over the outstretched arms of Maddie Johnson.
In the second game, the Mustangs showed more cohesion and outmatched the Majors at the net with seniors Charlotte Lathrup and Johanna Roche making key plays at the net. The Mustangs went on to win 25-16.
This set up the first 15-point tiebreaking game of the day for the Mustangs which they won through what seemed like a war of attrition. The Mustangs and Mount Vernon Majors were playing past 7 p.m. and most other times had gone home.
“We’ve been here since 9 in the morning and are definitely ready to go home,” said Heely.