By Caitlin Butler
George Mason High School fell to Independence High School in a hard fought five-set game, ending its season in the 3B region tournament semifinals.
“We came out tense. We don’t play well when we’re tense. Some teams play well serious, we don’t. We have to be having fun,” said Junior outside hitter Megan Boesen.
The Mustangs season ended with a whimper after forcing a fifth and decisive set against the sixth-seeded Tigers. A strong start was overtaken by Independence, which built a lead that steadily grew into a 15-8 win for the road team and a season-ending loss for Mason on its home court.
“We definitely gave it our all. Before the fifth set our coach said ‘I want you guys to leave 100 percent on the floor,’” Boesen added. “We definitely did that. Things just weren’t clicking tonight and that’s inevitable.”
Independence’s competitive edge was clear throughout the match as the visitors often traded blowout set wins with close losses to the Mustangs.
The Tigers roared in first set, nailing down a 13-4 lead quickly over Mason. The Mustangs were able to loosen up toward the end of the set with a block from junior middle hitter Vanessa George, but still trailed 22-13, a precursor to the 25-13 final score.
Back-to-back aces from Boesen established a stronger tone to start the second set. The Mustangs continued to apply pressure at the net and with the serve to secure a score of 25-20 win to draw that match even at 1-1.
Once again, Independence quickly took control of the third set by accruing a 6-0 advantage. A messy fault and a block by junior middle hitter Roza Gal put Mason back in the mix at 7-2. But things began to slip through the Mustangs’ fingers when the Tigers claimed three consecutive aces to lead 16-4 lead. Independence would go on to win the third set easily at 25-12.
Set four was a neck-and-neck battle between the two teams seeking a state berth.
The Mustangs broke away and found a gap in the Tigers defense with a swift point from junior right side hitter Alexis Holewinski, allowing Mason to lead at 15-11. Independence countered and eventually tied up the Mustangs 21-21 apiece. Mason head coach Derek Baxter called for a timeout to settle the Mustangs down, and the team was able to delay its eventual elimination with a 25-22 fourth set win.
“From the beginning we had a different kind of bond than we’ve had in the last years, as a team on and off the court. There’s so much to look forward to for next season, we have amazing coaches. They show up for us and that’s important for us to have in our lives. We hope to come out even stronger next year,” Boesen said.