by Matt Delaney
A five match win streak came to an end on Oct. 1 as George Mason High School’s volleyball team fell to an undefeated Rappahannock County 3-1 (25-23, 25-23, 25-21, 25-18).
Much like the fourth game in any seven-game series found in professional sports, the third set predicated who would come out on top. This time around, Mason wound up on the losing end.
At onset Mason bullied Rappahannock County into a four point deficit and led 9-5. The Mustangs acquired this lead thanks to every member of their starting rotation, with points scored by senior outside hitter Vicky-Marie Addo-Ashong, junior middle hitter Kate Karstens and outside hitter Shaun Rodock, sophomore middle hitter Merriweather Gordon and freshman outside hitter McKenzie Brady.
The surge forced Rappahannock County to call a timeout, which proved to be much-needed because once action resumed the Panthers clawed their way back and took a 15-14 lead they refused to relinquish, winning the set at 25-21.
With Mason trailing in the match, 2-1, a flawless fourth set was paramount. However, the pressure of perfection weighed heavy on their minds and segued to the team’s worst collective effort. The final set ended 25-18 as Mason held the lead for only a single point.
“We started off really strong, and then once we got down we seemed to lose our composure,” head coach Hillary Trebels said. Embracing better competition and the pressure that comes along with the challenge will be key as the season progresses, and to the players, having a sharp mind will serve as their best asset in those circumstances.
“I think we could’ve responded better by winning but it was hard, especially the mental game and to keep going in the last set,” Rodock said. Karstens added her own thoughts to the adversity faced last Thursday. “Sometimes when the calls don’t go our way or one person messes up they get down on themselves and everyone feels it across the court,” Karstens said. “That kind of energy is really contagious.”
Both teams were trading blows in two thrilling opening sets. Offenses passed fluidly and finished strong while defenses were gritty and recovered effectively as leads rarely exceeded three points by either side. Mason slipped up late in the first set and allowed Rappahannock County to squeak out a 25-23 win after committing two costly errors in the final three points of the match. The Mustangs regrouped in the second set when, after trailing 22-23, Rodock fired off two kills that were accompanied by senior libero Mary Catherine Donovan’s ace to end the set 25-23 in Mason’s favor.
Mason kept Rappahannock County off-balance early on by spreading the ball around and avoiding their usual crutch in Addo-Ashong’s superior play. Addo-Ashong still led on the stat sheet with 20 kills, but got help from Karstens and Rodock, who had nine and seven kills, respectively. Ashton and Duross were in a groove as both held double-digit assists; Ashton with 19 and Duross with 14. Aces came from Addo-Ashong, Brady, Donovan and Karstens, each with two.
Mason took on the Clarke County Eagles on Oct. 6, but results were not available before press time. They face the Warren County Wildcats on Oct. 8.