It could have gone either way for the George Mason High School volleyball team last Thursday night.
They were going up against Goochland High School in a Region B tournament semi-final game, a team ranked first in the region with only one loss in the season. That loss, however, was to Randolph-Henry High School, a team the Mason squad dropped 3-2 in the quarter finals two nights before.
“I told the girls at the beginning of the playoffs that my expectation was to be at the Regional Championship,” Coach Erik Healey said. “And we were very close to that goal.”
The Mason team took its opponent to five games, four won and lost by four points or fewer, before Goochland could pull out that third victory to give them the upper hand, 3-2.
“We really were just a couple points away from a shot at the Regional title and a bid to States,” Healey said, adding that the team has pulled out game-five victories all season.
The team fought back in that final game from a 1-5 score, but couldn’t get closer than 6-8 as the game progressed.
“The rallies for a single point seemed to grow longer and longer,” Healey said. “We lost a few points off of lucky bounces off the net. Our final point was lost on an ace.” The Mustangs lost the final game 11-15.
Strasburg High School, the team’s Bull Run District rival, fell that night to Stuarts Draft High School, who would go on to topple Goochland to become the Region B champions.
While the season didn’t end with a title, it was still a record-setting year for the Mason volleyball team.
“Our team shattered any expectation our community had for them,” Healey said. “This is one of the best teams Mason has had in years.”
Record-setters this year were senior outside hitter Rachel Bell with a 96.57 serve percentage, junior setter Maddie Johnson with 78 aces and 396 assists, sophomore middle hitter Sally Karstens with 113 kills and 75 blocks, and senior libero Nicole Philbin with 204 digs.
This also makes the second consecutive year that a Mason volleyball player has been named an All-District player, with Katie Breen taking the honor last year and Johnson this year.
“I believe that all these accolades are evidence that our program is headed in the right direction, and I look forward to coming back strong next year and improving on our already amazing success,” Healey said.
Healey’s team will be graduating four starters – middle hitter Natalie Farrell, right side hitter Charlotte Lathrop, Bell and Philbin – but Healey says that younger players returning next year show much promise, especially record-setting players Johnson and Karstens.
“Although we may have to run a different offense because of our personnel, the bar as been set high and I have every intention of improving on our season,” Healey said.