by Matt Delaney
George Mason High School’s varsity volleyball team stormed into postseason play with a thumping over the visiting Madison County Mountaineers in straight sets (25-17, 26-24, 25-21).
If a team wants to make a run in the postseason they must solidify strengths and atone for weaknesses. For Mason, Tuesday night saw the ladies exorcise two of their regular season demons: their tendency to play down to competition and their inability to respond to adversity.
Against a rowdy Madison County squad that becomes increasingly dangerous with every point they score, the Mustangs were able to quell their excitable guests with some grit of their own.
“I was really impressed with us,” senior libero Mary Catherine Donovan said. “I know in the past we’ve struggled a lot once a team starts getting a lead on us [and] we did let them get ahead of us a couple of times, but we came back pretty fast so I’m really proud of how we played mentally.”
These weaknesses were put to the test in the second set. Down 1-0, Madison County fought back to take their first lead of the match 12-10 after nabbing some kills of their own and getting help from Mason’s flawed play. To the Mountaineers’ chagrin Mason did not flinch, as junior outside hitter Shaun Rodock scored four of the next five points, three of which came on aces, to put the Mustangs ahead 15-12.
The lead was short-lived though. Madison County mounted another comeback to take the lead at 18-17, and held it until late in the set at 24-22.
A point away from losing their second set is when the regular season Mustangs would’ve folded like a lawn chair and allowed a less-skilled opponent to take the set and grant them unneeded momentum.
But it was in this instance where Mason proved to themselves they were an improved team.
“Before the game [senior outside hitter] Vicky [Addo-Ashong] was like ‘Today, we’re going to lose points, we’re probably going to get down at one point, we just got to stay in the game and know that we can come back anytime’” Rodock said.
“We know we’re capable of it and we wanted to keep that in our mind so that when we were down we [also] wouldn’t be down on ourselves [and] we could think about the next point as opposed to what happened in the past.”
A service error by Madison County followed by a kill from Rodock and two more from junior middle hitter Kate Karstens iced the fiery Mountaineers and helped Mason nudge out a second set victory at 26-24.
The third set was close in score, though it was visibly clear that Madison County had the energy sapped from their sideline. The set’s only tie at 20-20 saw an impassioned Mustang team quickly adjust and march to a 25-21 victory minutes later.
A constant correlation to Mason’s success stems from their service game, which head coach Hillary Trebels noted was all a part of the plan.
“Coach [Young] said that we need to serve more aggressively to get them out of system,” Trebels said. “For the most part that worked pretty well for us. They have one middle [hitter] who is really talented, [but] our tough serving didn’t allow them to pass [or] run her as an option.”
And in regards to the ladies’ rehabbed resilience?
“I was impressed with the girls’ ability to come back…we don’t play down a lot so getting a couple of those higher pressure situations today, knowing that today was a do-or-die game, I feel much more confident going [forward] the rest of the season.”
Mason continues postseason play at home tonight.