George Mason High School’s volleyball team kept their Bull Run District record above .500 with a dramatic 3-1 win over Rappahannock County High School on Oct. 4.
Rappahannock County has always been one of the top competitors in Bull Run volleyball, and has given Mason (7-5) fits over the years. That looked to be the case last Thursday as well, when the visiting Panthers nearly stunted the Mustangs’ comeback early into the third set with a 10-1 lead. The advantage had Mason staring down a 2-2 district record that would’ve put them in an urgent mode heading into the season’s final weeks. But it was a little fire (and barking) from senior designated setter Evelyn Duross that put the team back on track when things were looking bleak.
“I was just letting them know we needed to get it together because it was a long run,” Duross said afterward. “Sometimes when you allow a team to get into those long runs you get into a mental hole, so I was letting them know we had to pick it up.”
The third set proved to be decisive. Rappahannock County won a tight, but still casually controlled 25-22 first set win before the Mustangs responded with a strong 25-19 second set win on the back of aces from Duross and kills from senior outside hitter McKenzie Brady and sophomore middle hitter Roza Gal. Then the Panthers tore open a 10-1 lead in the third set and put Mason’s back against the wall.
“I didn’t see a point in calling a timeout there because I’ve done that before and it didn’t change anything,” Mason head coach Derek Baxter said. “So I was just letting them know they needed to figure it out — they needed to rally as a team to get themselves back into it.”
Mason did just that. Sophomore libero Caroline Pley’s service rally started a six-point run for the Mustangs to close the gap to 10-7. Senior outside hitter Riley Ruyak’s run soon after put the set all square at 13-13. And another five point service run preceded the final service stretch by Brady to push Mason to win the set at 25-18.
It was a deflating blow to Rappahannock County, which had the Mustangs dead-to-rights just 20 minutes earlier. The Panthers made the final set interesting after a sluggish start had them down 11-3.
But the closest Rappahannock got was within three points – at 15-12, 18-15 and 22-19 – until the Mustangs finally shut the door on them with kills by Brady and Gal to win the set 25-19 and the match.
“We talked earlier this week about what makes a great team,” Baxter added. “At the end of the game I told them that a performance like that is what makes a great team. We’re on our way, just can’t get too comfortable where we are now.”
Mason faced off against Clarke County last night but results weren’t available by press time. The Mustangs travel to Woodstock to take on Central High School tonight.