Mus­tangs make it eight in row

GE­ORGE MA­SON 3, MAGGIE WALKER 1

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY BRAN­DON PARKER bran­don.parker@wash­post.com

Ava Roth and her Ge­orge Ma­son team­mates tried to play it cool dur­ing half­time of Satur­day’s Vir­ginia 2A girls’ soc­cer state fi­nal. But deep down, their nerves were churn­ing in an un­fa­mil­iar, un­set­tling way.

For the first time in nearly two sea­sons, the Mus­tangs, win­ners of seven straight state cham­pi­onships, were trail­ing af­ter 40 min­utes of play, down one goal to Maggie Walker.

“They came out re­ally ag­gres­sive, and it be­ing the state cham­pi­onship, I think a lot of us were ner­vous be­cause we weren’t used to the pres­sure of be­ing down like that,” said Roth, a se­nior for­ward. “But I think once we all shared the fact that none of us were alone in be­ing ner­vous, we were able pull to­gether and play our game.”

Be­hind a for­ma­tion switch that ramped up their of­fense and the ma­tu­rity of 14 play­ers boasting cham­pi­onship ex­pe­ri­ence, the Mus­tangs ral­lied in the sec­ond half for a 3-1 victory at Rad­ford. The out­come marked Ge­orge Ma­son’s eighth straight ti­tle and 10th over­all, both state records, none per­haps as closely con­tested as Satur­day’s fi­nal.

Re­becca Crouch helped ease the ten­sion in the 55th minute. Af­ter field­ing a pass from Izzy Arm­strong, the sopho­more blasted a 25-yard shot into the up­per cor­ner of the net to knot the score.

About nine min­utes later, Roth pushed the Mus­tangs ahead for good by knock­ing in a cross from Jackie Baarts, run­ning her sea­son to­tal to 52 goals.

Still up 2-1 dur­ing stop­page time, Crouch again found space in the open field. Determined to make this victory, de­spite its ini­tial strug­gle, just as dom­i­nant as the oth­ers dur­ing Ge­orge Ma­son’s 26-0 cam­paign, Crouch surged for­ward be­fore netting the fi­nal score.

The goal and victory also helped pro­vide a proper send­off for Mus­tangs Coach Jen­nifer Par­sons, who is step­ping down af­ter nine sea­sons to pur­sue other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“It def­i­nitely made for a dif­fer­ent kind of week­end, know­ing this would be my last time through,” said Par­sons, who is get­ting mar­ried this fall. “It’s been an in­cred­i­ble ride, and ev­ery year has brought some­thing spe­cial to cher­ish with th­ese groups of girls, so I’ll def­i­nitely miss it.”

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