An 11-year dynasty came to an end last weekend as George Mason High School’s girls soccer team fell 1-0 in the Class 2 state championship game to Maggie Walker Governor’s School.
It’s fitting that Mason’s (17-4-1) departure from the Class 2 ranks for Class 3 next year would be accompanied by the end of a run that spanned more than a decade. But in a way, getting an opportunity to defend its crown was a success in and of itself for the Mustangs. A new head coach in Leah Partridge (Mason’s second head coach in two seasons), a squad of mostly first-time varsity starters and early season-ending injuries to some of the few returning players, such as senior defender Ariana Roco, put Mason on a steep incline from the jump — and yet it was still two goals away from 12 straight state titles. It’s hard to call the season a failure in light of those circumstances.
“The girls were obviously disappointed. They fought for 80 minutes and left everything they had on the field,” Partridge said. “This group of girls worked harder for each other than most of the teams I have had the opportunity to coach. They took our theme ‘United’ and lived it out, on and off the field.”
One deft touch was the decisive blow that unseated the Mustangs on Saturday. In the 24th minute, junior goalkeeper Josie Shaw left her line to parry a ball served into the box. Mason’s back line had Maggie Walker’s forwards covered during the following scrum, but one of the Dragons’ attackers was able to land a clean foot on a volley that counted as the game’s only score.
The Mustangs couldn’t equalize for the remainder of the game. Part of it was due to the drain from a physical contest against Radford High School in the state semifinal the day before. The lack of gas in the tank made for a few too many off-the-mark passes, which pulled Mason’s offense out of position and shrank the Mustangs’ shooting windows from tight to tiny. Coupled with Maggie Walker’s edge in experience (the Dragons had eight returning starters from the previous season), it was too much for Mason to handle.
In the rain against Radford on Friday, things looked bleak early. Shaw and junior defender Julia Rosenberger had to be taken out due to injuries. However, both returned and the Mustangs were able to find their groove from there.
Strong midfield play from seniors Maddie Lacroix and Maura Mann helped carry the ball from the defense to the offense, where junior forward Emma Rollins could find the twine.
The first came in the 30th minute when freshman midfielder Zoraida Icabalceta set up a Rollins goal, and the second came when Rollins scored a goal off a Radford foul five minutes later.
The Bobcats tallied a goal in the final 13 minutes, but Mason held on from there.
Now with Class 2 behind them, Mason can reflect on the legacy it leaves behind — one they do with pride.
“We built a program that plays with class,” Partridge added. “Many teams in 2 A refer to “Mason soccer” as a style — maintaining possession and working as a team to attack and defend. It is a tall order to maintain, but we will continue to do everything we can to prepare our girls for this level of play.”