Still trying to shed its “nice guy” persona and get into a grittier postseason mindset, George Mason High School’s girls soccer team was able to muscle out a 2-0 win over Central High School on Tuesday.
All year Mason head coach Leah Partridge has pounded home two messages for the Mustangs (12-3-1) — don’t pass up open shots and, when they do shoot, don’t kick right at the goalkeeper. Those directives had been accomplished in spurts throughout the regular season, but with the postseason now here the team showed a sharpened commitment to making it work. The result is still a work in progress, but one that’s trending where it needs to.
“We’ve worked on what movements someone can make when they have the ball to create better shots and better opportunities. They’ve definitely been looking for those chances a lot more and are taking people on, especially on the outside,” Partridge said.
The Mustangs started off a bit shaky until a goal settled them. Junior forward Emma Rollins ripped a clean look right at the goal, but the ball forgot to get off at the right floor and kept climbing until it hit the crossbar. Soon after, freshman forward Zoraida Icabalceta found a clearing to set up her own shot, though she fired it right into the Central goalkeeper’s gut. It seemed like regular season’s problems were sprouting back up again — and in the middle of an win-or-go home playoff game, no less.
Finally, in the 21st minute, Mason broke through. Senior midfielder Maura Mann fed Icabalceta who gave it right back to her in a small window. Mann didn’t waste any time and rifled the ball into the net to give the Mustangs a needed 1-0 lead.
As the first half came to an end, Mason was treading water. Central couldn’t muster together a meaningful possession, but the Mustangs’ offensive chances weren’t lethal enough to increase their cushion. It put them into a pseudo purgatory until Partridge was able to snap them out of it at the intermission.
“We talked about how we were a little slower off our second touch, so we addressed that at halftime,” Partridge said. “We increased our play coming into the second half and began to generate the looks we wanted from there.”
The Mustangs harangued Central throughout the second half. Despite having to make sure none of the Falcons’ forwards leaked behind the back line on Central’s strong punts, Mason was able to keep the ball in their offensive half of the field. That aggression set up multiple free kicks inside the final third of the field as well as constant action around the net.
At last, in the 75th minute the Mustangs sealed the game with another goal when a Rollins volley was finished by freshman midfielder Megan Tremblay.
The Mustangs will host Madison County High School tomorrow night at 5 p.m.