by Matt Delaney
The spring sports season is underway at George Mason High School this week with all ten teams playing their opening slate of games. Teams’ objectives vary from defending state titles to refining skill sets, but all share a mutual enthusiasm over the upcoming season and what it holds.
Entering his first season as head coach for the Mustangs boys tennis team is Mason Assistant Principal Matt Hills.
Hills seeks to replicate the success from former tennis coach Matt Sowers, who guided Mason to Single A State championships from 2010 to 2013. Those’re some big shoes to fill, but Hills believes improving the Mustangs mental game will help them qualify for the State tournament in June. Mason’s mentality is seeking upgrades in two areas: confidence and tactics.
Confidence is important because, as Hills stated, “You’re not going to play your best match every time,” intending for Mason’s group to embrace adversity and learn from it. Better tactics refer specifically to understanding the geometry of tennis and how to rely on angles instead of power to win matches.
The Mustangs won their first match of the season, 8-1, against Potomac Falls High School on Tuesday, March 15.
The Mustangs softball program also begins anew with first-year head coach Antonio Bravo. While in his inaugural year at Mason, Bravo has been involved in youth, high school and collegiate softball throughout his life. Bravos’ passion for the game is unquestioned and is glad to say the same for Mason.
“I am delighted to see that the girls are enthusiastic about learning softball at a higher level, and approach each practice hungry to learn something new. This is a coach’s dream come true.” Bravo said.
Seniors pitcher Julia Ferris and catcher Annie Ferguson along with junior infielders Juliann Carter and Tea Abbracciamento round out a speedy roster aiming to put Mason’s softball team on the same level as the school’s other perennial state-title contenders.
The Mustangs won their first game against Riverside High School 8-0 on Monday, March 14.
Mason’s baseball teams looks to pick up where they left off last spring and make a run toward Virginia’s 2A state finals in Radford.
Despite falling short of that same goal in 2015, head coach Adam Amerine feels the team gained a valuable lesson during the postseason.
“The learning experience to take from last spring is just how difficult it is to reach the finals and how you have to improve each day of the season and play your best in June,” Amerine said.
The Mustangs boast a hearty pitching rotation and a defensive leader behind the plate in senior Marsden Davis, but will be searching for offensive production out of their line-up after key contributors graduated last year.
Mason plays their first game at Woodrow Wilson High School on Friday, March 18.
The Mustangs boys lacrosse program has a unique challenge. They’re classified as a 2A school but compete at a 4A level.
Higher-numbered classifications mean larger school populations, so Mason’s opponents can be more selective and demanding with their rosters. Basically, Mason’s the underdog in most games, but head coach Marc Mesmer doesn’t endorse excuses on the subject.
“Last year we played tough against a lot of the bigger opponents and look forward to doing the same this year, too,” Mesmer said.
Riding the high of 2015’s eight-win season, the largest win-total in the past five years, the Mustangs have a good mix of seniors and underclassmen that’ll keep raising the bar for Mason’s boys lacrosse program.
The Mustangs lost their first game of the season 13-2 at Stafford High School on Monday, March 14.
Ending 2015’s season in the 2A state semifinals at Gate City High School, Mason’s varsity girls tennis team understands that, to take the next step, they need to sharpen their craft.
Luckily the Mustangs have the tools to do just that. Head coach Alex Ware gushed about how dedicated the team is as well as how talented they are. So talented that Ware had to re-adjust her own plans for the season to accommodate the surplus skill.
Mason is invested in their betterment so progress is guaranteed, right? Wrong. Poor court conditions have nagged the team since the season began.
“Our tennis courts [can’t] be played on because of the damage from this winter,” Ware said. “So this year it’s just planning and finding different locations to practice.”
The team has found refuge at the Tuckahoe Recreation Club in McLean for now. Even with the program being displaced from school grounds, interest in tennis remains high. The Mustangs won their first match of the season 8-1 at Potomac Falls High School on Tuesday, Mar. 15.
Another program on the rise is Mason’s varsity girls lacrosse team, who made it to the Virginia state semifinals last year for the first time in school history.
The team is centered around a strong core of juniors and sophomores who, along with a small contingent of seniors and freshman, have their sights set on a state title. Another appearance at the state tournament seems certain for the Mustangs, but winning the title is a whole different story.
Head coach Courtney Gibbons believes a greater sense of commitment to lacrosse is needed for Mason to turn their dream into a reality. “We need to work really hard every day at practice and put in the extra time outside to achieve our goal,” Gibbons said. “Our team knows what we need to do to get back to States. It’s a matter of how bad they want it!”
Mason won their first game of the season 12-9 at Bishop O’Connell High School on Monday, Mar. 14. See story below.
Claiming three consecutive state championships from 2013-2015, Mason’s varsity boys soccer team seeks to become the first team in VHSL history to win four straight state titles.
The goal seems lofty, but not when you look at the statistics. Last year the Mustangs set state records in goals scored (160), least goals allowed (3), goal differential (+157) and were the first team VHSL history to finish their season 26-0-0.
Players who contributed to 136 of the 160 goals scored in 2015 return to the squad so talent remains in-house, but Mason must avoid the one thing that plagues all dominant teams: complacency.
Thankfully, head coach Frank Spinello knows how to root out the problem. “Our short term goals are always the same every year – to get a little bit better every week,” Spinello said. “We create that atmosphere by constantly challenging players and having high intensity practices that are well defined and mimic game situations.”
Mason plays their first game at home against Mount Vernon High School tonight.
State champions for eight years running, former assistant turned head coach Allison Klink doesn’t take running Mason’s varsity girls soccer team lightly. Even with 13 of the 17 players on the team having a championship on their resume, Klink knows never to undermine success with laziness.
“We need to go into every game with a high level of intensity and we need to leave every game with something to improve on,” Klink said. “Yes, we hope to have a chance to defend our state title, but we can’t overlook the process that we need to take to get us there.”
The Mustangs lost their first game of the season 5-1 against Yorktown on Tuesday, Mar. 15
Track & Field
Mason’s varsity track & field team looks to improve on a respectable showing in 2015.
The girls placed strongly in conference (1st), region (4th) and states (5th), now head coach Jeff Buck aims to bring the boys up to speed who finished third, 18th, and 27th, at conference, region and states, respectively.
“On the girls side we are looking to continue our success from last year,” Buck said. “On the boys side we want to be at the conference level as a team and have more individual qualifiers at states.”
A strong mix of seniors and underclassmen prime Mason for promising 2016 season.
Mason will run against conference 35 foes at an invitational at Strasburg High School on April 2.