Though the Virginia A girls’ soccer state tournament began Tuesday, Claire Trevisan has been talking about it for weeks now. She hasn’t had a choice. Classmates, teachers, everyone she encounters as she walks the hallways at George Mason wants to know: How’s the state title run going?
The question comes each spring at George Mason as the calendar flips to June. The school has won the last five Group A state girls’ soccer titles and can move one step closer to a state-record sixth with a win in Saturday’s semifinal at Radford University.
“Everybody wants us to win and expects that we’ll be at state, and we set those same goals,” said Trevisan, a member of the Mustangs’ last two title teams. “No one wants to be the team that broke the streak and didn’t win it all.”
The city of Falls Church isn’t quite as obsessive about its soccer as Odessa, the football-crazed Texas town immortalized in Buzz Bissinger’s “Friday Night Lights.” But with the Mustangs (20-4) on the verge of another title entering their semifinal against Radford High, the expectations seem just as high.
“Some of the girls walk in for their first tryouts, make the team and all of a sudden they are the team to beat, even though they don’t have any of that experience,” Coach Jennifer Parsons, who has led the Mustangs since 2007, said. “That can be tough. But when you’ve been winning for so many years, the community takes pride in the program and all of these girls are competitive and want to win titles, so it’s special.”
The Mustangs’ brand of play is a fairly simple one, focused on possession and calculated ball movement. This season it’s resulted in a scoring margin of 135-11, led by 23 goals and 24 assists from Trevisan, who was named Region B player of the year. On the other end of the field, George Mason’s defensive depth behind goalie Katie Cheney has yielded 18 shutouts.
As the younger sister of Leah Roth, one of the Mustangs’ star players for the previous four seasons, Ava Roth remembers making what has become an annual trip to Radford University for the state final. With drums and noisemakers in tow, hordes of fans trek the 260 miles south to support the Mustangs during a run that’s seen the Mustangs defeat four different schools in the championship game.
In turn, when it came Ava Roth’s turn to slip on a Mustangs jersey last season, she knew the well-traveled footsteps set before her, a tradition that includes a Thursday trip to Radford, a pit stop at Sheetz and a two-night stay at the La Quinta across the street from campus. The Mustangs’ boys’ team, which has five titles of its own since 2000 and was runner-up in 2011, will join its female counterpart for the trip this year. Mason faces Galax in its noon semifinal.
“You have the pressure from your family, your friends, the audience and everyone who reads the paper saying ‘Oh, there’s Roth,” the sophomore forward said. “But I’m really competitive, so the standard she and the players before us set motivates me to push even harder.”
Refueling the hunger for more success can prove a trying task for Parsons, who “sometimes [feels] like I’m saying the same thing over and over again.” But if the Mustangs, who feature nine freshmen, needed any motivation for number six this weekend, it came on May 23. That’s when Clarke County beat the Mustangs, 1-0, to snap their string of five consecutive Bull Run District titles.
“I feel like redeeming ourselves is something we all want after that loss,” said Roth, who has 22 goals. “I think we got a little comfortable that day and it was a big wake-up call that we can’t just show up and expect to win, regardless of what we’ve done in the past.”
The Mustangs responded by sweeping through the region tournament, outscoring opponents, 12-0, before Tuesday’s 10-0 victory against King William in the state quarterfinals.
“With the way the girls came out on fire, you could tell it was state tournament time,” Parsons said. “We’ve talked about coming out strong and grabbing the momentum early, and I think if we can keep doing that, we’ll keep ourselves on the right track.”