With the heat subsiding and the excitement of a new school year plastered onto every teacher and student (and parent) face alike, there may be no group happier than George Mason High School’s fall sports athletes and their coaches.
This season will see some teams looking to build toward their ultimate goal of district and regional competitiveness and others looking to maintain a dominant form they’ve held for years. It’s why this fall presents two kinds of excitement: one about making note of future potential and another of realizing potential in the field of competition.
The games for most teams have already gotten underway, so we’ll do the same by jumping right into the preview.
It was a banner season for George Mason High School’s boys and girls cross country teams in 2017. The girls won districts for the fourth year in a row, won regionals and placed fourth at states — their 19th consecutive year qualifying for states and 15th consecutive year placing in the states top four. On the boys side, they finished third at both districts and regionals and took seventh at states.
However, the success of last year is met with the reality of this season — over 20 seniors from both the boys and girls teams graduated in June, leaving the team’s core relatively young and green. Mason head coach Jeff Buck is confident in the team’s talent and eagerness, but knows the leadership and cohesiveness will be a learning curve.
“This year’s real challenge with such young talent is coming together as teams,” Buck said. “We will greatly miss the senior leadership that helped to guide our boys and girls teams to their successes. If we can work as a team, then our successes will follow out on the cross country course.”
Buck is still expecting, bare minimum, for the team to reach the same heights they did last year despite their youth. The Mustangs will begin that journey next Wednesday, Sept. 12, when they face Rappahannock County High School to start the season.
Looking to climb a few more rungs on the competitive ladder is George Mason High School’s field hockey team this fall.
Last season’s 11-8 record was, along with some realignment procedures by the Virginia High School League, enough to earn the Mustangs a trip to the 1A-3A state quarterfinals last season. It was there that Mason duked it out with Tabb High School, which had won four straight state championships prior to the 2017 season. Tabb walked off the field with a 5-0 victory, but the resolve shown by the Mustangs and the opportunity to test themselves against top teams gave Mason a baseline to compare themselves to entering 2018.
Even though the Mustangs graduated eight seniors and only have 14 players on the roster this year (four seniors, 10 underclassmen) they’re coming together on both offense and defense fairly quickly, according to head coach Melissa Raeder. Mason just needs to endure some iron-man games and sharpen communication.
“Our biggest obstacle this year is that we are a young team and only have 14 girls on the varsity roster, so our players will have a lot of pressure to perform at speed for an entire game with little to no rest,” Raeder said. “We are also working on communication and trust as the girls become better acquainted on the field and know to let one another play their positions instead of trying to overcompensate.”
Raeder expects the Mustangs to get 10 wins this year. A loss to Maggie Walker Governor’s School on Aug. 23 stalled that goal, but a game tonight against Washington-Lee High School gives Mason a chance to get back on track.
It’s been an up-and-down past couple of seasons for George Mason High School’s football team, which looks to steady the ship coming into this year.
In 2015, Mason went 8-4 and won their first ever playoff game. The following season, a 2-0 start spiraled into 2-8 finish and left the Mustangs on the outside looking in come the postseason. And last year, Mason compiled a 6-4 record before losing to Staunton-based Robert E. Lee (the eventual Class 2 state runner-up) in the playoffs.
With a slew of new faces and some old faces in new positions on the team, head coach Adam Amerine is looking get the team acquainted with the gridiron via baptism by fire.
“We graduated a fantastic core of seniors who wanted to be coached and bought into the system,” Amerine said. “This year we have some young players coming up from the freshmen team and older players making position changes so the transition has been tough. We hope to build some momentum early in the season and learn on the job so to speak.”
The Mustangs are off to a good start. They beat Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology 38-0 last week thanks to some hard running from senior running back Jack Felgar and junior running back Connors Plaks. But Amerine cautions that the October stretch starting with a road game against Strasburg High School followed by three straight games against Marshall High School, Central High School and Clarke County High School (who combined for a 28-2 regular season record last year) will make or break the team’s playoff chances.
Mason looks to stay on track with their second of three straight home games against Sidwell Friends School on Friday.
After ending the following three seasons in regional home openers to underdog opponents, George Mason High School’s volleyball team is looking to leap over that hurdle this season.
Enter Derek Baxter, Mason’s new head coach and the man tasked with overcoming the obstacle that stumped the previous three iterations of Mustangs. It wasn’t as if Mason was without success — each year they performed well enough in the regular season, and against quality teams, to earn home playoff matches — but falling victim to same okie-doke wears thin on the third year.
That’s why Baxter is looking bring it back to basics and hone the team’s technical craft so they can be able to handle any situation with confidence.
“In the game of volleyball your technique has to be spot on if you want to have a good match,” Baxter said. “If your technique is off in any way it affects how you perform, so I’m very much about harping on the basics no matter if it’s a senior player or a freshman.”
The Mustangs have treaded water so far, splitting their first four games, 2-2. Mason looks to get in the green with a game against John Paul the Great Catholic High School tonight.