An action-packed week saw George Mason High School’s girls soccer team play four games in four days and finish with two wins and two losses.
It’s just over a month into the season and the Mustangs (4-3) have performed admirably, defeating Bull Run district opponents while stumbling against higher-classified teams. Since last Thursday’s four-game span started, Mason kept with that trend by defeating Rappahannock County High School and Strasburg High School by a combined margin of 16-1 and losing to Loudoun County High School and Woodgrove High School by a combined margin of 10-2. Mason’s new head coach George Bitadze isn’t reading too much into results though, as long as the team is consistently improving.
“I try to make them uncomfortable with things because I want them to learn,” Bitadze said. “Their technique may break down and not be exactly what I want, but they’re starting to get more comfortable with things — and I have to keep trying too so that they can keep learning.”
Tuesday night’s contest with Strasburg was an ideal chance for the Mustangs to continue that learning process without forgoing a win. Junior midfielder Ariana Roco’s goal in the opening minutes, followed later by a four-goal flurry from junior midfielder Maura Mann and senior midfielders Victoria Rund and midfielder Sophie Matton from the 24th to the 27th minutes, all but guaranteed the win. So Bitadze advised his team to work on their possession skills and refine certain approaches into the offensive zone.
Those skills, Bitadze says, will prove useful later in the season when opponents won’t be as pliable as the Rams were this week or the Panthers last Friday. And at more developed stages they could’ve helped against the Raiders and Wolverines, two 4A opponents. Both teams were far more aggressive, and therefore, successful versus the Mustangs. It’s not like Mason can’t hang with higher classified teams — they did defeat Dominion High School 1-0, albeit after losing to them 2-1 a few weeks earlier — but in the postseason against good teams, multiple chances aren’t a given.
The final lesson Bitadze has been drilling into his players is pacing. In both recent games against upper-tiered Woodgrove and Loudoun County, Mason expended too much energy throughout the first half and start of the second, allowing the Wolverines and Raiders to run up the score as the Mustangs became winded. Mason can get away with that when they come out of the half with a multi-goal lead, but tougher opponents won’t be so forgiving.
“In the games we played against stronger teams, it was 1-0 at halftime and 1-1 soon after halftime ended, but in the last 20-25 minutes it’s suddenly three goals, four goals allowed, and we lose,” Bitadze added. “I tell them you have to think about all 80 minutes, you can’t think about just those five minutes where things go good or bad.”
The Mustangs will play Central High School tomorrow at home before traveling to Madison County High School on April 24.