Flowers are nearing bloom just as George Mason High School athletes are returning to the field, pitch, diamond and track for the 2018 spring sports season. An array of Mustangs fans are eager to get the competition underway, so let’s peek at what’s to come.
New head coach Katherine Marsh is the Mason softball’s third in three years, after the one year stints of Antonio Bravo in 2016 and Dawn Tarter in 2017 were never followed up.
Marsh’s absence from the program the previous season caused her to punt on pontificating about the team’s performance this season though the turnover has been a problem for Mason.
In Bravo’s first season at the helm, the Mustangs performed admirably going 8-10 However, the bottom fell out in Tarter’s campaign, where Mason finished the season winless at 0-19 and were outscored 340-26 throughout all those competitions.
An 0-1 start to the year is not ideal, coming from a 23-13 loss to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology. But Marsh has a chance to bounce back against Dominion High School on April 4.
A redemptive season was experienced by Mason’ girls lacrosse program in 2017, as they rose to the top of the Virginia 4A state mountain with the school’s first-ever girls lacrosse title in a 15-14 barnburner against Riverside High School.
Still, the team isn’t resting on their laurels. They look to repeat as state champs, and know their notoriety from last year will make them a target in every game throughout 2018.
“Biggest obstacle this season will be beating Riverside and Dominion. Those are the toughest teams in our conference and extremely talented,” head coach Courtney Gibbons said. “We need to continue to work hard every practice and improve as an entire team. We have a lot to live up to after winning states, and need to to play our best every game.”
The Mustangs downed Class 6A lacrosse power Yorktown during their season opener on March 19. Now the goal becomes keeping that head of steam after Spring Break when they travel to face Stone Bridge High School on April 6.
Mason’s boys lacrosse team continues to trend in the right direction, but is struggling to get over the hump of putting together winning seasons.
After two years of consecutive losing seasons, the program appears to be at a standstill. Part of that is is a product of any contact sport – similar to football – where the smaller student pool creates disparities.
Even with that in mind, Mason head coach Marc Mester believes a strong mix of experience and talented youth will offset a challenging schedule.
“We have some unknowns with a few new teams to go against on our schedule this year but I am confident in our team’s ability to learn, adapt, and execute,” Mesmer said.
So far the Mustangs are 1-1, losing to Sidwell Friends High School (6-3) but beating out Tuscarora High School (8-5). They’ll square off against Washington-Lee High School on April 3 for their next match.
Ten years running now, Mason’s girls soccer team has been crowned 2A state champions in Virginia. The accomplishment is an all-time one but with it comes a heavy expectation.
Luckily, the Mustangs have been able to meet that expectation despite the natural roster changes and periodic coaching moves as well. This year is no different, as a new batch of players will be tasked with making it an 11th straight title while new head coach George Bitadze will assume command of the team after former head coach Allison Klink stepped down following last season.
Bitadze couldn’t be reached for comment, but he’s already facing an uphill climb after the Mustangs fell to Dominion High School 2-1 in the season opener. Mason will play against Lee High School on April 4 with a chance to even their record.
Last season was forgettable for a storied program such as the Mustangs boys soccer team.
Mason fell in the regional opener at home to Staunton’s Robert E. Lee High School.
The Mustangs struggled all year with being able to score consistently, and — in hindsight, predictably — suffered a down year after winning four state titles.
That’s why head coach Frank Spinello is hoping to re-energize his crew and remind them that success is never guaranteed.
“If we stay focused and healthy we expect to compete for the championships that eluded us last year,” Spinello said. “We can not get complacent or overlook anyone on our schedule, every game will be a battle and take a team effort.”
Mason’s off on the right foot, taking a first place finish from the Smoky Mountain Cup in Tennessee. They also trounced state champ, Maggie Walker Governor’s School, 3-0 on the road, so an April 4 match up against Springfield’s Lee High School should build more momentum. Next is an April 4 match against Lee High School.
Boys tennis is eyeing the top prize on the court this season, as a hungry team is looking to capitalize on the opportunity with a gifted squad that’s determined to make a difference.
Head coach Rafael Diokno is tired of seeing strong regular seasons and Bull Run District titles fizzle out in early exits from the 2A Region tournament However, the team has responded to the challenge, preparing throughout the offseason to hone their craft.
“I’ve mentioned winning states more times this season than all of the seasons I’ve coached before combined. We’re hungry and I think we are talented enough to go all the way.” Diokno said.
So far the new approach to the season has produced mixed results. with the Mustangs 2-2 right now. And while girls tennis head coach Stephen Whitcomb couldn’t be reached for comment, it’s likely he has the same goals for his team.
The boys will play Dominion High School on April 4, while the girls will face Wakefield High School on April 5.
Track & Field
Another strong season for Mason’s track & field team saw the girls finish sixth in at the 2A state meet while the boys placed 14th, their highest finish since 2014.
Although this year will be particularly challenging for head coach Jeff Buck with a host of new faces joining the team.
“This season we do have a larger inexperienced group than we had in the past,” Buck said. “It will take awhile this season to hit our stride as the newcomers learn more about the sport and from the upperclassman.”
Despite that challenge, Buck and the Mustangs are pushing on with intense focus. The most will be expected from the seniors, who as juniors, benefited from a large and committed senior class to help guide their aspirations. Now they must take the baton and help bring the new runners up to speed.
Mason travels to Strasburg High School for an April 7 meet.
Mason’s baseball team had an up-and-down year in 2017.
After starting the season 2-6, the Mustangs finished 10-11 with wins over powerhouse teams William Monroe High School and Madison County High School.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated into 2018. Mason has lost all three of their games to opponents Falls Church High School (9-7), Annandale High School (4-3) and Washington-Lee High School (14-4).
Head coach Adam Amerine couldn’t be reached for comment, but he’s likely working to turn around the team’s slow start in an April 3 game against Briar Woods High School.