by Liz Lizama
George Mason High School’s varsity girls soccer team shut out Gate City High School 9-0 in the VHSL 2A state semifinal at Radford University on Friday to advance to the final against Maggie Walker Governor’s School on Saturday. Though Mason had a rough first half against the Green Dragons, the Mustangs pulled through in the second half to win 3-1. The victory earned them the eighth consecutive state title, all under head coach Jennifer Parsons, who announced she is leaving Mason after this year.
Friday’s semifinal game against the Gate City Blue Devils was much like most of Mason’s season. The Mustangs were up 5-0 at halftime and continued to dominate in the second half, scoring one minute into the half. The shutout marked Mason’s 18th this season.
Advancing on to the title game, Mason faced Maggie Walker, who they beat 2-1 in last year’s state championship game and 4-0 in the 2A East regional championship the week before. This rematch would be different though as it was the first time in two years that the Mustangs were losing during a game.
“Maggie Walker did a good job of learning about us after our first game against each other in the regional final,” said Parsons. “They made several adjustments within their formation, which made it more difficult for us during the state final.”
The Green Dragons took an early lead, scoring within the first five minutes of play. While Mason put forth a great effort for the remainder of the first half, the Mustangs still trailed behind 1-0 at halftime.
“Being down a goal turned the tables a little and made us the underdog for the second half,” said Parsons. This was certainly not a feeling Mason was familiar with, as they have remained undefeated since 2013. “We were all so nervous,” said sophomore forward Becca Crouch. At halftime, she said they asked themselves, “What is going on? We weren’t used to that kind of pressure.” The rest of the players shared the same sentiments.
“I think once we talked during halftime, we realized that everybody was nervous at the same time, like we weren’t alone in that feeling,” said senior forward Ava Roth. “And we talked with the crew and saying we know that first half wasn’t our game, that wasn’t our team, and we just need to start fresh with the second half.”
The Mustangs changed their formation to be more offensive in the second half, a risk that ultimately paid off. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Crouch scored the goal Mason needed to tie the game. “She really stepped up to the challenge in the second half,” said Parsons of Crouch’s performance. “I knew she had the talent to have a huge impact in the game, but it is a lot to ask of a sophomore. The tying goal that she scored was an amazing shot.”
The Mustangs were a bit relieved after the first goal, but they knew they still had to put in more work to win the game.
As junior defender Jackie Baartz dribbled the ball up, Roth said, “I knew she’s a good player, I knew she was going to beat that player and get across.” Roth slid between the Maggie Walker goalkeeper and defender to score Mason’s second goal, giving them the lead 2-1. In the last two minutes, Crouch scored again to seal the game 3-1. “We didn’t want to just beat them by just one goal,” said Crouch. “The final goal just finished it off, we proved we were supposed to be there.”
Wrapping up the season, Mason also earned eight spots on the All-State and All-Region first teams: sophomore defender Carly Roberson, senior defender Jessica Gemond, junior midfielder Corinne Carson, junior midfielder Kate Mills, junior midfielder Ella Howard, sophomore forward Becca Crouch and senior forward Ava Roth, who also earned State and Regional Player of the Year. Junior defender Clara Frost earned All-Region second team.
As Parsons ends her last season with Mason, the players expressed much joy in being able to send her off with another state title. Adding to her collection of accolades, Parsons received the State Coach of the Year award.