It happened that way the last time the teams met, in the Region B championship, a 2-1 Mustang win.
On Saturday, it happened that way in a 3-0 George Mason win that gave the Mustangs the first-ever VHSL Group A girls soccer championship.
After beating Mason twice during the regular season — both times by solid margins — Brentsville (16-4) found itself on the losing end three times to Mason in the postseason, with more on the line each time. The Tigers lost 2-1 in the Bull Run District final and again in regionals before Saturday’s meeting with everything on the line. That final win, the biggest of all of them, helped avenge Masons only two losses of the season.
George Mason coach Cliff Carroll said the difference didn’t lie in a change in strategy.
“We matured as a team during the year. We played more team soccer than individually,” Carroll explained. “We were relying on certain individuals to produce and make great defensive plays. Then the team characteristics took over, and that made everybody’s job easier and more effective.”
The teams played to a first-half draw on Saturday, with the Tigers dominating possession for the first half. Although they had good chances, the shots were often wide or easy enough to be saved by Mason goalie Leen Quintyn. The best chance Brentsville had in the first half came on a shot from Megan Marino to the far right post, but Quintyn got over in time to deflect the shot.
“Part of it was weathering that storm [of Brentsville chances],” said Carroll. “They changed from the way they normally play us, and it took us some time to adjust.”
As the half wound down, the Mustangs (16-2-1) were better able to keep possession. Although no scoring chances resulted, the push helped set Mason up for the second half.
The Tigers’ best chance of the match came 15 minutes into the second half. Marino took a crossing pass from Ryan Ruhstorfer and put a shot on net. Marino raced towards the ball, as did Mason reserve keeper Megan Wilhelm. The two collided, but the shot trickled past Wilhelm – and rolled just outside of the net.
Nearly six minutes later, the Mustangs’ Christina Sedney put a shot on goal from the middle of the field. The ball sailed toward the net, and just above the outstretched arms of Brentsville goalie Colleen Thomas, giving the Mustangs a 1-0 lead.
Although the goal didn’t completely doom Brentsville, Mason maintained possession and kept Brentsville from making a sustained attack. The Mustangs added insurance in the 71st minute, on a similar goal from Clair Grubbs. Grubbs shot was just high enough to stay out of the reach of Thomas.
Mason’s final goal came after Thomas tried to punch out a shot. But she missed, and tumbled to the side of the goal. The Mustangs Kendra Webb was there to capitalize and make the score 3-0.
Ruhstorfer said she didn’t feel like Masons first goal knocked the wind out of her teams sails.
“The second one did,” she said. “They knew we had plenty of time left. It might have alarmed some of them, but we still had chances. Because as soon as they scored, we had a breakaway.”
The Tigers will lose six seniors to graduation, but their current crop of freshmen – there were 10 on the roster – will help give the Tigers a chance at a state berth again next season.
Said Ruhstorfer: “It’s a tough way to go out, watching your seniors cry.”