Spring may be sprung-ing on and off, but George Mason High School’s spring sports programs are already in the early portion of their schedule with most teams in their second week of the regular season.
The teams are all in different positions — some are looking to continue years-long state championship streaks, others are looking to supplant rivals at the regional and state level and a few are just trying to recuperate from a big graduating class last spring.
But enough of that — let’s jump into the preview.
After being edged out 4-3 to eventual state champions Page County High School in the Region B quarterfinals, Mason’s baseball team (1-3) is optimistic it can cause some trouble in the postseason — as long as they conjure up the bats to get them there.
Returning their one-two pitching combo in senior righty Jay Nesson and sophomore lefty Peter Villa is a big plus for the Mustangs. Rotational contributions from seniors Johnny Asel and Brian Murphy as well as junior Caleb Parnell and freshman Thomas Pierce make the mound a definitive strength for Mason.
Finding the right bats to deliver at the plate, however, is going to be a work in progress. Mason’s top three offensive hitters graduated last year, so putting together an imposing order is just as important as the team buying into the head coach Adam Amerine’s batting philosophy.
“We as a coaching staff just need to find the right combo of hitters who will buy into our style of situational hitting and smart base running and we should be able to compete every night. A little bit of luck never hurts either in baseball!” Amerine said.
Mason will play Strasburg High School tomorrow night on the road.
Overcoming a lack in numbers will be an ongoing challenge for Mason’s boys lacrosse team (1-0) this season, but a switch in playing style plans to accommodate that.
Back in 2018, the Mustangs took a big step forward by beating 4A rival Loudoun Valley High School in the Region B quarterfinals. It was the first win that senior class had over Loudoun Valley, so it was a sweet moment. But to keep that on the ascending with a mostly new team, Mason’s new crop of players will have to fill that hole with their talent more than their experience.
“We have a lot of young guys who have lots of talent. They are going to need to replace a lot of great players but I am confident that they will do so,” Mason head coach Marc Mesmer said. “We have two seniors who will greatly help the team out with a lot of young guys taking roles as captains or team leaders.”
A small roster has forced the Mustangs to adapt its style on the field. The approach will be more situational in order to slow the game down and preserve the team’s legs. But it will also require the players to manage their bodies properly off the field.
The Mustangs will play Wakefield High School tonight.
A disappointing end to 2017 with a loss in the Region B quarterfinals saw Mason’s boys soccer team (2-1-1) come back with a vengeance last spring to reclaim the Class 2 state title. Despite the past successes, the team still isn’t looking any further ahead than it needs to.
“The expectations and goals have not changed from last year — we just want to focus on one game at a time, and then go win that game,” Mason head coach Frank Spinello said. “If we can do that all season we will be successful.”
So far, so good in that department. Spinello tasked the seniors with stepping up and taking on more leadership on and off the field, while underclassmen are being directed to take ownership of the team and contribute in all possible ways. According to Spinello, both have exceeded expectations.
Overcoming a regional and state-level heel in Staunton-based Robert E. Lee High School will be the main concrete challenge for this team. But the current #18 ranked team in the nation is confident it’s made of the right stuff to handle any team in front of them.
Mason will host Springfield-based Robert E. Lee High School next Tuesday, March 26.
After winning it all for the first time in school history in 2017, Mason’s girls lacrosse team (1-2) failed to qualify for the Class 2 state tournament in 2018 — something Mason head coach Courtney Gibbons could tolerate if she felt the team was buying in each and every game.
“Our biggest obstacle this year is showing up in games,” Gibbons said. “Everyone needs to do their part and as a team we need to apply what we do in practice to games. We have to play together as a team if we want to win.”
Mason’s early end to the season was its first time since 2014 not making the state tournament. The road back will be bumpy, as only five seniors and one junior will lead a team full of freshmen and sophomores. Gibbons acknowledges that it will take time to get comfortable and play together, but also expects the team to do some work outside of practice to help speed the gelling process up.
The Mustangs will look to get a win against Culpeper County High School tonight at home.
Going for 12 years in a row to cap off a final season in the 2A classification is Mason’s girls soccer team (1-1), even with a new head coach for the second year in a row.
Leah Partridge takes over the program after serving as an assistant coach for her first couple of years at Mason. She inherits a good amount of challenges to work through. Seven seniors graduated last season, leaving the only experienced players in senior midfielders Maddie Lacroix and Maura Mann along with junior defender Julia Rosenberger and junior striker Emma Rollins with a host of underclassmen.
Even with some adversity mixed in, the young team is rallying around their season’s theme of “UN1T9D.”
“A unified team works together,” junior defender Isabel Davis said. “They trust each other, and become something better than simply the sum of their players. Everyone’s involved. Everyone works for each other. And everyone wins.”
Mason will play Springfield-based Robert E. Lee High School next Tuesday, March 26.
An absence of true fast-pitch softball teams in the area give Mason’s softball team (2-1) a tricky hurdle to clear when it comes to acclimating to the game speed of the regular season.
“I consistently have groups of 5-10 girls asking to stay after practice just to get extra reps in,” Mason head coach Kat Marsh said. “They are putting in the work, but with many of our first contests getting cancelled/postponed, our success this year will largely be determined by how quickly the girls can get in rhythm with one another in game situations.”
Marsh is bringing in a slew of new girls to the program, primarily at the JV level, in hopes the investment will pay off as they age.
The Mustangs will travel to Strasburg High School on Friday.
Track & Field
Boys and girls track & field is an evergreen strength for Mason, but the team will be going through some growing pains as it tries to bring a young group of players up to speed.
Losing its top sprinter on the girls side will make its four-year streak of being Bull Run District champions a much steeper hill to climb. On the boys side, improving upon a third place finish in the district, a fourth place finish in the region and a 14th place finish in the state, while adding more state qualifiers, will also be difficult given the lack of numbers on the team this season.
“On both sides the biggest obstacle is depth,” Mason head coach Jeff Buck said. “We have some great talent at the top, but if injuries, illnesses or other issues pop up we will need some athletes to step in — who may or may not be quite ready.”
Mason will open its season at the Strasburg High School Invitational on March 28.