Mustangs Storm into State Semis

FRESHMAN MIDFIELDER Zoraida Icabalceta, along with senior midfielders Maura Mann and Maddie Lacroix, have been a force late into the postseason for the Mustangs. (Photo: Carol Sly)  

Two final wins at home send George Mason High School’s girls soccer off to southwest Virginia on a high as it hopes to win its 12th straight state title this weekend.

During a year that saw stretches of not the most demanding opponents, but also not the most inspiring performances, the Mustangs (16-3-1) are now demonstrating their championship grit. Last Friday, Mason sweated out a 1-0 win over Stuarts Draft High School en route to claiming yet another Region 2B title. And Tuesday was a progressively dominant 3-1 showing against Poquoson High School that helped the Mustangs advance to the Class 2 state semifinals set to start on Friday. The key going forward isn’t to overthink the more skilled competition to come, but to stay true to what’s gotten Mason this far.

“We just gotta keep doing what we’re doing,” senior midfielder Maura Mann said. “This year we’ve been playing great soccer, we just have to continue our cohesive play and keep bringing good energy.”

Poquoson proved a worthy challenge for 40 minutes before the Mustangs recalibrated in the second half.

With some speed and physicality, the visiting Islanders were aggressive in all three phases of the field and kept Mason honest whenever it did try to generate scoring chances. Mason took advantage of that aggressiveness when senior midfielder Maddie Lacroix perfectly placed a ball to a streaking Mann, who beat an over-eager defender before skipping shot into the net in the 23rd minute.

But Poquoson’s feistiness wore on Mason throughout the next ten minutes. After a shot from Lacroix was snagged by the Islanders’ goalkeeper, a counterattack where a Poquoson midfielder weaved her way through Mason’s back line and buried a shot in the lower left post knotted the game at one apiece before halftime.

Mason head coach Leah Partridge got the Mustangs to simmer down at halftime reminded the team to play to feet and maintain possession. Along with that, Partridge did a little tinkering in the midfield in order helped Mason’s superior game emerge in the second half.

Freshman midfielder Zoraida Icabalceta’s feed to junior forward Emma Rollins in the 54th minute couldn’t get past the Islanders’ keeper. But an encore performance a minute later between the two ended with Icabalceta tallying a goal off a Rollins assist to put Mason back up 2-1.

Relentless pressure from the Mustangs midfield wore down Poquoson and segued to an icing goal from Mann in the 73rd minute on an assist from Icabalceta.

Last Friday against Stuarts Draft, an early goal made all the difference for Mason. Mann ripped a shot right at the Cougars’ goalkeeper, but an attempt to clear was botched, allowing Icabalceta to knock a dirty goal in during the 18th minute. The Mustangs held on from there, despite the occasional scare, to clinch the region championship.

Mason will play Gate City High School tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Radford University.