Slow starts finally caught up with George Mason High School’s girls soccer team. While it was able to overcome sluggish open against Strasburg High School, it couldn’t make it up in a 5-2 loss to Madison County a few days later.
It hasn’t been a glaring weakness in the Mustangs’ (7-3) game, but it has been noticeable. Prior to this week’s batch of matches, Mason was down 0-3 to Clarke County High School on April 27 in the first half before scoring three straight goals in the second to end in a tie. Against Rappahannock County on May 1, the Mustangs scored only one goal in the first half compared to seven in the second. Whatever’s causing Mason to plod through the first 40 minutes of action, its existence needs to be remedied with the same second half urgency the team regularly displays.
“We started both games slow and even with some sense of entitlement. The Strasburg game wasn’t that much of a problem but Madison County came on hard and our girls clearly didn’t expect that,” Mason head coach George Bitadze said. “We played much better and won the second halves of both games. It was enough against Strasburg but not against Madison County. In the latter, we allowed too many goals in the first half and couldn’t manage to recover in the second.”
Sizing up Strasburg on May 4, the Mustangs weren’t optimally aggressive on the field but also weren’t punished for it. Senior midfielder Victoria Rund scored in the first three minutes of the half and junior midfielder Maura Mann launched a pass from sophomore forward Emma Rollins to give Mason a 2-1 advantage by halftime. As the second half got underway, the Mustangs held defensively and later added to their margin when freshman Emilia Cipriano’s shot connected in the 62nd minute. Mann assisted senior midfielder Jessie Beddow’s goal toward the game’s to accumulate the final 4-1 tally.
Monday night’s game against Madison County was a different story. The Mountaineers racked up five goals in the first half — the most allowed by Mason against any Bull Run District opponent in at least the last decade. Madison County nearly blanked the Mustangs in the first half until Mann slipped one past the Mountaineers’ goalie with 20 seconds remaining.
Beddow assisted senior midfielder Sophie Matton two minutes into the second half, but Mason could never get it going from there. The defeat was a referendum on Mustangs’ early game intensity, with lingering injuries problems keeping the team from fielding their full assortment of players.
“We have a lot of injuries so it’s hard to talk about executing our desired plan,” Bitadze continued. “At times I just have to put my players in positions they are not used to yet playing. And there is not much of a help coming off the bench.”
The Mustangs got back on track with 1-0 win over Central High School Wednesday night. They’ll get a chance to avenge their loss to Madison County at home tonight.