Sports

As Seasons Change, New Batch of Mustang Athletes Take the Field

George Mason High School senior Sarah Lubnow races to the goal during a game last year. (Photo: Courtney Gibbons)
George Mason High School senior Sarah Lubnow races to the goal during a game last year. (Photo: Courtney Gibbons)

As everyone begins to thaw out from the winter, athletes will soon be taking the field to compete in George Mason High School’s spring sports season. A plethora of teams are looking to build on the successes of the previous year, or in some team’s cases, continue winning traditions that extend over a decade. Other squads are looking to break boundaries in their respective sports and usher in new legacies that teams can carry on for years to come. There’s a lot to be excited about for many Mustang fans this spring, so let’s dive into the seasonal preview.

Baseball

The Mustang baseball team has their work cut out for them.

A contested Bull Run district that includes perennial powers William Monroe and Strasburg, as well as teams on the verge of breaking out in Madison County, Clarke County and Central, will put pressure on the Mustangs throughout the season. With an even split of sophomores, juniors and seniors and one freshman, Mason has to adjust — fast — in order for the team to go up against top competition.

Even with a steep hill to climb, head coach Adam Amerine keeps expectations high for his team. Last season ended abruptly in the Conference 35 semifinals, so Amerine knows it’s more about how his team finishes the year than how they start.

“It’s not how we are playing in March that I am worried about, Amerine said. “The goal is to be playing our best in May so we can make a run. I think the boys are hungry and ready to get after our opponents and represent Mason well this spring.”

Mason starts its season with a home game this Saturday against Rappahannock County High School.

Softball

Change is in full swing for the Mustangs softball squad. Following the departure of former head coach Antonio Bravo, Mason is seeking to improve on last year’s 8-10 record under new skipper Dawn Tarter.

“One thing we’re altering is combining junior varsity and varsity practices,” Tarter said. “We have a couple of talented 8th graders who will be able to move up to varsity next year and adding them to the athletes we already have on varsity will make for a pretty great team.”

Allowing less experienced players to share the field and practice time with the Mustangs’ best is a strong sign of continuity. It’ll hasten the team’s rebuilding process, which is underway after the bulk of last season’s team graduated. With all the seniors on the roster last year, there was little room for the sophomores and juniors to develop at the varsity level. This season, those players will be tasked with leading the team.

Regardless of the season’s outcome, Tarter is intent on keeping the team loose to heighten interest in the sport. She knows that growing pains can wear on a team over the next three months and wants players to remain dedicated despite any difficulties that may arise.

The Mustangs host Rappahannock County High School this Saturday for their season opener.

Girls Lacrosse

A sour end to the 2016 season lingers with Mason’s girls lacrosse team.

After beating Woodgrove High School for the Conference title, the Mustangs were defeated by their rival in both the 4A regional and state championships. The last loss was especially hard to absorb as the 18-6 final didn’t resemble the feisty Mason squad that gave Woodgrove a run for its money in previous meetings.

The hope now is to turn that pain into progress and catapult the Mustangs to a state championship title by early June.

Mason is led by Virginia Tech commit Sarah Lubnow and a collection of battle-tested juniors and seniors. Defeating Woodgrove and other rivals Riverside High School and Dominion High School are the short-term goals. Winning the coveted 4A state title as a school that normally plays in 2A is the chief objective.

A long season awaits, but head coach Courtney Gibbons is confident that her team will rise to the challenge.
“We know what it’s going to take to accomplish our goals, and I’m confident the girls are focused and dedicated to this,” Gibbons said. “ As a team we need to make sure we are making smart decisions, on and off the field.”

Mason hosts Yorktown today, Mar. 23, to start the season.

Boys lacrosse

The Mustangs boys lacrosse team is looking to rebound from a down year in 2016 with a plethora of returning players.

Only two seniors make up the 2017 roster but they will serve in a key leadership role for the youthful squad that hopes to make headway in their competitive district. Just like with the girls lacrosse team, the boys find themselves punching up to 4A.

Despite the obvious obstacle that presents, head coach Marc Mesmer feels his team will make strides this season.
“The district is filled with top-tier teams, including four of the top 10 teams in the state based on last year’s final results,” Mesmer said. “All of our players will be expected to step up and get out of their comfort zone if they want to be successful.”

After a year of maturing and developing, the time to improve is now.

The Mustangs kicked off their season with a home game against Trinity School at Meadow View on Mar. 21.

Girls soccer

Another year and another state title for Mason’s girls soccer team last spring.

Winners of nine consecutive 2A state championships, the Mustangs have a target permanently emblazoned on their backs thanks to an embarrassment of riches over the past decade. That’s not to say it’s been easy. Each year presented its own hurdles to clear and has required Mason to stay in the moment rather than overlook any one opponent or game.

This season is no different. Head coach Allison Klink maintained the discipline that guided the previous title-winning teams while also learning first-hand the pressure that comes with being the head coach of such a storied dynasty. Moving into her second year at the helm, Klink is ensuring her team tackles new challenges head on and keeps their foot on the gas from March until June.

“Our biggest challenge this year will be working with a new formation,” Klink said. “We are trying to do some different things to capitalize on our areas of strength as a team that will be different than years past. The girls are eager to learn and work together to try some new things to help us be successful.”

Mason opened the season with a home game against Rappahannock County High School on Mar. 20.

Mustang runner Ahmed Elzamzami (rear) hands off to Andrew Coulson in the 4x100 relay last year. (Photo: Carol Sly)
Mustang runner Ahmed Elzamzami (rear) hands off to Andrew Coulson in the 4×100 relay last year. (Photo: Carol Sly)

Boys soccer

The Mustangs boys soccer team return after capturing their fourth consecutive 2A state title last season.

Prep for the 2017 season is underway as Mason aims to hoist another championship trophy by mid-June. Intensive practices and players with championship pedigree make up the team’s back line and give the Mustangs a boost as they embark on another long campaign.

Though even with their eagerness to add a fifth straight title, Mason has no small task before them. Last year the team’s top goal-scorers graduated. Those are no small shoes to fill.

“The players we lost to graduation scored over 100 goals last year, so we will need some players to step up and assume that role this year,” head coach Frank Spinello said. “We cannot go into the season overconfident or relying on our past achievements. We need to prove ourselves each year as a new team.”

Finding a new identity for the team won’t happen overnight, but Spinello and his staff have forged champions out of many different rosters before. This year the Mustangs may just have to work a bit harder to find theirs.

Mason started the season on the road against Rappahannock County High School on Mar. 20.

Track & field

Sprinting their way into a new season is Mason’s boys and girls track and field team. The teams come off a 2016 season where both the girls and boys saw major improvements. The boys placed fourth in districts and fifth in the conference, while finishing 18th in regionals and 22nd in states, up five spots from 2015. Meanwhile, the girls had a landmark year, placing first in districts and conference, second in the region and third in states — one point removed from a second place finish at the state meet.

Even with the strong year, Mason has some adjustments ahead. The team dropped from 100 total competitors to 85 this spring.
Head coach Jeff Buck has faith this group will do what it takes to carry on last year’s success.

“I believe we can continue the success, even with less depth on our team, but we cannot lose our focus,” Buck said. “This season both sides are really focused on being a united team. “Even though track and field consists of many events and disciplines, if we do not work as a team we will not reach our goals.”

Both boys and girls have their first meet Apr. 1 at Strasburg High School.

Tennis

The boys and girls tennis teams are poised to serve up another strong season.

Last year’s boys team posted a 12-1 record on their way to the state tournament in Radford. Even though the boys didn’t come away with the ultimate prize, they learned a few valuable lessons along the way that will make this year’s run even more viable. Add in a chunk of returning players from the year before and the boys tennis team has a legitimate shot at making waves again come later this spring.

The girls team didn’t finish the year as strong as their male counterparts, but are still primed to make deep run. After only graduating four seniors last season, a more mature Mustang tennis team is also primed to turn a few heads come May and June when the postseason begins.

Neither team’s coach could be reached for comment, but expect Mason’s tennis teams to continue their ascent in 2017.

Both teams square off against Tuscarora High School today, with the boys hitting the road and the girls hosting.