What kind of blog would the GoMason Blog be if we didn’t give you a year-end top-10 highlights?
Here, in chronological order, is a very unsophisticated look 2010’s top-10 Mason moments:
January 30 – The men’s basketball team beats James Madison, 70-68, to tie the school record with its 17th-straight home win over a CAA opponent. In the process, the Patriots improved to 10-1 in the CAA, the best 11-game start in conference play in school history.
February 28 – The women’s basketball team tops Georgia State, 47-43, picking up its 10th win of the year. It marked Mason’s first 10-win season since 2005-06 as the Patriots also picked up their first two-game conference win streak in four years.
March 19 – Ashley Danner capped a brilliant sophomore season with a runner-up finish in the 100-yard breaststroke at the NCAA Swimming Championships. What did it take for Arizona’s Ann Chandler to beat Danner? An NCAA record and the second-fastest time in history. Danner had three All-American finishes at the meet while Kristen Meier became just the second female Patriot to ever compete at the NCAA Diving Championships.
March 20 – Becky Anderson pitched the fourth perfect game in school history as she recorded 15 straight outs to beat Georgia State 8-0 in the second game of a doubleheader. Anderson went on to be named All-CAA for the third time in her career as she set a school record with a 1.29 ERA and seven complete-game shutouts.
May 1 – The men’s track and field team captures the CAA Track and Field Championship, the fourth in program history but the first since 1995. The women’s team, meanwhile, placed second, its highest finish since 2004. Grace Mavugara was the Outstanding Women’s Field Performer after sweeping the long and triple jumps.
May 8 – The softball team closed the season with a three-game sweep of Delaware, missing the CAA Tournament by one game but finishing with a 21-24 record. It was the highest win total for the program since 2005 and the fifth-place finish in the CAA was the highest finish in conference since 2002.
May 23 – Ryan Soares finished off one of the best seasons in school history by setting one CAA record and two school records as the baseball team ended the year with a 17-9 win over Towson. Soares entered the game tied for the CAA single-season record for doubles and the Mason school record for career doubles and he hit two to break both marks. He entered the day with a chance to break the school record for single-season batting average and he didn’t falter, going 5 of 6 to finish with a .438 batting average, shattering the mark of .420 set in 1985. Soares was a first-team All-American and finalist for the Wallace Award, given to the nation’s top shortstop.
Oct. 29 – The women’s soccer team just missed a spot in the CAA Tournament in 2009, finishing the season tied with JMU for the fourth seed and missing out on a tiebreaker. This year, Mason didn’t allow it to come to a tiebreaker as the Patriots beat Towson 2-0 in the season finale to earn the third seed into the CAA Tournament. It was Mason’s first trip to the CAA Tournament since 2007 and the Patriots brought their A game to Hofstra. It took penalty kicks against JMU to end Mason’s season after the teams tied at 1-1 after regulation and two overtimes.
Nov. 21 – Laura Sinclair put together a terrific sophomore season as she was CAA Runner of the Week multiple times, was named All-CAA and All-East, set the Delaware Invitational event record and was Mason’s top runner in every single meet. She finished second at the ECAC Championships.
Dec. 30 – Cayle Byers was expected to have a big year in 2009-10 but he ended up redshirting the season due to injury. He returned with a vengeance this season. Byers started the year 16-0 and beat the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the nation. His undefeated year came to an end when he fell in the finals of the Southern Scuffle to the nation’s second-ranked wrestler.
How would you like to go to work every day and have hundreds of people, sometimes thousands, watching your every move and criticizing your every mistake? Wouldn’t you relish the opportunity to switch roles and be one of the ones doing the critiquing? Well that’s the opportunity that a couple of Mason student-athletes have had the past few months.
Ryan Gracia and Kimmy Moss have been both players and media in the fall season. Gracia played in the midfield for the men’s soccer team this year with a goal and three assists as the Patriots finished 8-7-2 and had a final RPI of 64. Moss was named second-team All-CAA after scoring two goals and handing out three assists from the back line as the women’s soccer team made the CAA Tournament and finished with a final RPI of 76.
Moss, who hopes to do to television or radio broadcasting in the future, has done color commentary for some of the men’s soccer Internet broadcasts. She also runs for the track and field team. Gracia, who wants to be a print or electronic journalist (preferably covering the NBA), has covered several events for Connect2Mason.
Both feel that being a student-athlete and having competed as well as having actual relationships with the people they’re covering has been a help, not a hindrance.
“As an athlete, covering another athlete, I know which part of the game is important to write about,” said Gracia, who came to Mason from Rockville, Md. Growing up in the area and loving basketball, it was natural for him to become a Wizards fan.
“I’m a huge NBA fan and I read all the blogs and articles about the NBA and I just really enjoy that style of writing,” Gracia said. “Whether it’s just something I continue with or a stepping stone, I think it’s a good start for me.”
Gracia has had the chance to cover Mason basketball, as he wrote the Connect2Mason story for the Patriots’ win over George Washington. He’s also had to deal with covering a tough Mason loss as he was on hand when the women’s volleyball team gave up a 2-0 lead over Northeastern in the season finale and lost, thereby missing out on a spot in the CAA Tournament. Finally, he’s also had the opportunity to cover some of his closest friends as he wrote about the 3-on-3 intramural basketball tournament won by Mason Soccer.
“Being a writer, you have an eye for the big plays and the most important things,” Gracia said. “You kind of have a sense of what the athletes are feeling whether they turn the ball over or hit the game-winning shot, you know the ups and downs of the game.
“I don’t think it’s too difficult (to be objective). Being an athlete and being able to understand writing, you kind of know what points to get at and what points not to get at. You’re not going to kill a guy for messing up.”
While Gracia chose to combine two of his loves, sports and writing, to pursue a career in sports writing, Moss has taken her main love, talking, and used it to work toward a career doing something she been a part of her whole life. Her father is Mike Moss, a long-time anchor for WTOP, the Washington area’s highest-rated radio station.
“When it comes down to what do I enjoy the most and what do I want to spend my life doing, I really enjoy talking, Moss said. “What had a big impact was my Dad being in the business. I kind of thought that it would be exciting to follow suit in that as well.”
Moss, who comes from nearby South Riding, has had plenty of experience through internships, including one with WUSA Channel 9. That gave her the opportunity to see every part of what made a TV station work. She also had experience at Mason when she worked several men’s soccer matches.
“It’s definitely hard to be objective when you’re broadcasting your own team,” Moss said. “You know them so well. But the biggest problem is you know more about your team than the other team. I would research for a couple of hours to learn the other players, but it’s just not the same.
“It’s a challenge, but it has its advantages. You can give insight that others can’t.”
Gracia, a junior, will be back next season for the Green and Gold. Moss just completed her senior season with the women’s soccer team but she has two years of eligibility remaining for track. She is weighing whether to apply for a graduate program at Mason so she can compete in 2012. So will the pair have to worry about saying something their fellow Mason student-athletes might take the wrong way?
“You have to be critical for both teams, it doesn’t matter who you’re for or who you’re against,” Gracia said. “You just have to convey it the right way.”
“You need to tread lightly around some sensitive issues or games that are going wrong in an athlete’s life,” Moss said. “But you’re not being fair to your audience if you’re not giving the complete picture.”
In case we haven’t said it often enough on the GoMason Blog, the women’s soccer team plays its biggest match since 2007 today when it travels to Towson. At 2 p.m., the Patriots take the pitch knowing that a win or a tie puts them into the conference tournament. The last time they made it was 2007 when they suffered an opening round loss to James Madison. You can follow all the action on GoMason.com with a Live Blog of the action beginning around 1:45 p.m.
The GoMason Blog asked the seniors on this year’s team to answer one simple question: “What does Friday’s match at Towson mean to you?” We heard back from three of them and here are their responses:
“Today is a day where actions speak far louder than words. As a senior, I could go on all day as to why this game is important, and why I think we deserve to win, but the scenario speaks for itself. From here on out, it’s win or go home, and for some of us, home is a place of no return. The seniors aren’t ready. The team isn’t ready. The coaching staff isn’t ready. This family isn’t ready, and what better position to be in than the one we’re in now? Nobody is in our way but ourselves. Luck has fortunately been on our side, but we know it’s time to quit depending on luck. As cliché as this sounds, we must depend on work ethic, heart, and each other. I did not leave practice yesterday thinking that would be my last time on our field. I, no WE, left with the intent to return, and not with just a tie. Today we don’t need a senior speech or a motivational speech to get us going. We know what we must do, and we know exactly what’s on the line. Today, more than any other day yet, we need to ‘bring that blood and pain!’”
“This is my last year as a Mason Patriot. This is it for me and the three other seniors on our team. Playing at Towson today means a lot for me as a senior. It means that with a win today, we are guaranteed a spot in the final four of our conference tournament. It means that I will be guaranteed another game as a senior and as a Mason Patriot. I am so proud of this group of girls, and with all the injuries and setbacks that we’ve had, I am confident that we will be up to the task for today’s game. We sure don’t expect today’s game to be a walk in the park, especially playing away from home, but with our athletic ability, and determination, I have no doubt that we will come out victorious at the end of 90 minutes.
“At the beginning of the season, I remember telling my teammates that one of my goals for this season was to reach the CAA playoffs. In fact, that was every one’s goal on our team, to make it to the CAA playoffs. Now, with just one game left on our schedule, Towson happens to be the deciding game of our 2010 season, and the most important game of our entire season. With a win today, as a team, we will all have accomplished one of our goals that was set in the beginning of the season. Towson here we come!! We are bringing that blood and pain!! LETS GO PATRIOTS!!”
“The reality is, today’s match against Towson is just another match.
“It’s just another day of being lucky enough to play soccer with a team that I absolutely love to play for. I go into it expecting, demanding, and determined to win, just like any other game. What’s different today, though, is that as we enter the last game of the regular season, I can’t let go of the fact that I am finally a senior. And as a senior, I can’t help but to realize that my days on the field are numbered. To be brutally honest, it’s a really scary feeling. Terrifying, in fact, for someone who truly loves the game with all her heart and soul.
“So what exactly does this game mean to me?
“I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say everything.
“Taking care of business today against Towson, means that I’ll get to play another game of the sport I that love, with the team that I love, for the school that I love. And right now, that’s all I could ever ask for.
“LET’S GO MASON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
In case you haven’t been paying attention, the fall sports seasons are slowly coming to a close and that means it’s time to take a look at the postseason picture for all of Mason’s teams.
Let’s start by taking a look at the women’s soccer team. This Friday at 2 p.m., the Patriots will play at Towson and Mason is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. Currently tied for third, a win or a tie will put Mason into the four-team tournament. Mason (10-7-1, 6-4-0) will look for its seventh-straight win over Towson (6-10-3, 2-7-1), a team that has not beaten Mason since Diane Drake took over as head coach prior to the 2004 season. GoMason.com will have a live blog of all the action from Towson on Friday.
Next up are the cross country teams. The CAA Championships will be contested on Saturday at Wilmington, N.C. Last year the men’s team finished second paced by Everett Hackett, who was second, Sam Horn, who was tenth, and Scott Tekesky, who was 12th. Both Hackett and Tekesky return this season. Last year, the women were third, with Rochelle Sceats finishing fifth and Laura Sinclair finishing tenth. Both are back and running well, especially Sinclair who has twice been named CAA Runner of the Week.
The men’s soccer team has three matches remaining and they currently sit in a three-way tie for fifth, just two points behind three teams tied for second. Mason’s remaining matches come against Hofstra, also tied for fifth, and Georgia State and UNC Wilmington, both tied for second. It would be an understatement to say that the remaining matches are meaningful. The good news is, the Patriots control their own ability to get to the postseason. Three wins and they will, at worst, finish third. There are plenty of other combinations as well that will get them into the CAA Tournament, which they last won in 2008. Hofstra and VCU (which is also in second place) still have to play first-place William & Mary as does UNCW which finishes with three straight road matches. The Patriots have never needed fan support more than they do in their two remaining home games – Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. The Patriots are currently second in the conference in average home attendance.
Finally, there’s the DEFENDING CAA CHAMPION WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL TEAM. The Patriots, who are the DEFENDING CAA CHAMPIONS are tied for third with James Madison, with which they split their two matches this year. The Patriots, who are the DEFENDING CAA CHAMPIONS, trail second-place VCU by a half game but Mason lost its only meeting this year with the Rams. The DEFENDING CAA CHAMPION Patriots have matches remaining with first-place Delaware, which they will only face once this year, fifth-place Northeastern and Georgia State, and Hofstra, Towson and UNCW, three teams that are a combined 4-22 in conference play.
GoMason.com and the GoMason Blog will keep you up to date on the postseason picture for all of Mason’s sports.
Short of Homecoming, you can’t get a bigger weekend for Mason Athletics than this one.
Let’s start with the obvious. Tonight is Mason Madness, when fans get their first look at the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Doors open at 9 p.m., activities begin at 9:30 p.m. The GoMason Blog is hyped for the dunk contest. Can’t WAIT to see what Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison and Andre Cornelius pull out this season. In case you don’t remember, last year, along with Kevin Foster (who has since transferred), they were Green Lantern, Batman and Spiderman.
Check out 2:15 into this clip.
Check out GoMason.com as well as GoMason Blog tomorrow for highlights and interviews from Mason Madness.
Now on to competitions that actually COUNT in the standings.
The women’s volleyball team hosts a pair of matches this weekend, first taking on William & Mary tonight and then hosting VCU on Saturday (both matches at 7 p.m.). The Patriots are 5-0 on the year while William & Mary is 2-3 and VCU is 3-2. Saturday is a very big match as not only is it the Dig Pink match, it’s also the first time these teams have faced since Mason ripped the hopes of a CAA title out of VCU’s hands. The Rams hosted the conference tournament last year as the No. 1 seed and had beaten Mason during the regular season. The Patriots promptly crushed their dreams to earn the conference’s at-large berth into the CAA Tournament.
The cross country teams head north this weekend as the men’s team competes at Penn State while the women are running at Princeton. The swimming and diving teams will take on both James Madison and Delaware in a tri-meet in Newark, Del.
Tomorrow night the men’s soccer team will host James Madison looking to build off the momentum from Wednesday’s win at Towson. It was a dramatic victory for the Patriots who hadn’t beaten the Tigers since 2004. The Patriots are just four points out of fourth place right now with six matches to play. Mason has already played three of the top five teams in the current conference standings, so things should get a little easier from here on out. Of course that is all relative, as six CAA teams are ranked in the top 41 in the RPI, including the Dukes.
But of all the events this weekend, few are as important as the women’s soccer matches against UNC Wilmington and Georgia State. The Patriots host those schools and they can smell the CAA Tournament. First off, let’s all agree that it’s highly unlikely the CAA Tournament won’t go through Hofstra. The Pride have won 12 straight and are 6-0 n the conference. That leaves three spots left in the tournament and seven teams have legitimate shots at making it. In second place is Georgia State. The Patriots will host the Panthers (4-1-1) on Sunday at 1 p.m as part of Senior Day. Before they get to GSU, Mason will take on UNCW tonight at 6 p.m. The Seahawks and Patriots are both 4-2-0 in the conference, tied for third, just one point behind GSU. James Madison is tied with Mason and UNCW while William & Mary (3-2-1), Northeastern (2-3-1) and Towson (2-3-1) lurk behind. Come Sunday afternoon, the CAA postseason picture could become a lot more clear, or a lot more murky.
“One player who would love to end her Mason career with a trip to the CAA Tournament is Capricia Alston. As a freshman, she went to the tournament when Mason traveled to James Madison and lost in the opening round, 2-1. She is one of three current Mason women’s soccer players to taste the postseason. Here is her blog entry on this weekend as the Patriots say farewell to their seniors.
“This weekend is probably one of the biggest weekends for our team thus far. We play UNCW, tied for third place with us and JMU, and Georgia State, ranked second. This weekend is not only a strong indicator for what teams will continue into the conference tournament, but more importantly it will also test our character. Recently suffering a 5-0 loss against a Hofstra team that was undefeated in conference, we left Long Island with our heads hung low. We are aware that when we bring our full potential we are a tremendous threat, and when we don’t, that kind of score is the result. The hanging question for us now is can we pull it together and consistently bring that potential to our last five games, starting with Friday. I think we can, and I know I am not alone.
“For four of us (Omolyn Davis, Evan Feldman, Kimmy Moss and myself), this weekend holds an even more special place in our hearts. As seniors, these are our last home games EVER, and with family members and coaches coming from locations as far as Jamaica and California, I am positive that we want nothing more than to leave our beloved field with a bang. After a hard week of competitive practices and shooting drills, I think the entire team feels that way as well. We all realize how important these two games are for our season, and we are determined to prove this one game at a time.
“Last year we disappointedly fell short against both teams, with both matches resulting in ties. We were disappointed with not only the results, but also our performance. Knowing this, we do not intend on letting this occur again. It is coming down to crunch time and I believe that we are capable of taking on the challenge. We are out for blood, and what better time to go hunting than our last couple of opportunities in our own territory?
“We just have to remember one thing, and it’s this – “we’re gonna bring that blood and pain,” and we’re going to bring it TOGETHER starting Friday!”
A VERY busy weekend in Fairfax gets started tonight over at the RAC as the women’s volleyball team hosts Georgia State in a battle of the only two unbeaten teams in the CAA. Both Mason and the Panthers are 3-0 and Mason already has wins over James Madison (2-1) and Northeastern (2-2), so a win tonight could put the defending CAA champion Patriots in the driver’s seat. Win or lose, there will be no rest for the team as they will play UNC Wilmington on Saturday at 5 p.m.
The swimming and diving teams started the year last week at the Potomac Relays and both the men’s and women’s teams placed second. This weekend, the Patriots host both Loyola and Navy with action getting underway at the Aquatics Center at 11 a.m.
Capping things off at home is the men’s soccer match against William & Mary. The Patriots have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season and need a big home crowd to support them as they take on the third-place Tribe.
One team competing away from home this weekend is the women’s soccer team. The Patriots suffered their first CAA loss their last time out, losing at James Madison. Mason and Madison are in a four-way tie for second in the CAA with Georgia State and UNC Wilmington. All four teams are tied at 3-1. Northeastern is right behind at 2-1-1 while Hofstra sits along in first at 4-0. This weekend’s road trip is to Northeastern and Hofstra. Here with this week’s installment of the women’s soccer player blog is junior Zania Barnum who has a goal and two assists on the season. Tonight’s match is at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s is at 1 p.m.
“Last Sunday we battled against James Madison. We intended to carry the momentum we’d gained after our gritty win against VCU two days prior with us to JMU. Last year, we weren’t able to participate in the conference tournament because we shared the fourth place position in the conference with JMU. Unfortunately, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, the opportunity to compete for the conference title in post-season play was awarded to them.
“So, there we were, Sunday afternoon, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, waiting for the starting whistle to notify us that it was time for us payback the Dukes. When the whistle sounded, we got off to a rough start that left us trailing only four minutes into the match. About twenty minutes later, we equalized—or, at least we thought we did until the referee disallowed our goal due to an apparent offside call. We recollected and outplayed JMU for the remainder of the ninety minutes. However, we failed to outscore them—and in the end, of course, that’s all that matters. We lost. The final score: 3-0. We were bitter; we knew the final score did not reflect the momentum of the game.
“Tonight, we play Northeastern. We want the win. We need the win. And by 9 o’clock tonight, we’re hoping we’ll have it. We don’t expect it to be easy. We’re away from our home fans and we’ll be playing on a fast field against an athletic team. But lucky for us, and unfortunately for Northeastern, we’ve lugged our athleticism and technical abilities to Boston with us—all the way from Fairfax. :-P And, to add to that, we’ve brought the bitter feeling we experienced after we lost to JMU last weekend—a feeling we intend to transfer to Northeastern. Again, we don’t expect it to be easy. We never want to play a good team after a bad loss and that’s the situation we’ll fight to overcome tonight.
“We left campus yesterday at 10:30 in the morning. We took a bus and spent most of the ten-hour trip chattering as if silence was something to fear. Away trips force us to become even more synchronized with each other. We learn more about each other and find new reasons to want to fight for each other come whistle-blow. After the trip up here, the team knows it’s where it needs to be in order to seize our goal for the weekend—six points.
“Sunday afternoon, we’ll play Hofstra. Another away game. Another turf field. Another win? Time will tell.”
Good luck to all of Mason’s teams this weekend and make sure to check GoMason for results.
Big weekend at home for three of the four sports currently in season. This afternoon at 4 p.m, the women’s soccer team will play VCU in a match that was postponed from yesterday (more on that in a minute). Tomorrow, the cross country teams will host their lone meet of the season as they compete at Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg at 10 a.m. Later in the day, the men’s soccer team will host VCU at 5 p.m. The weekend is capped on Saturday night when the Patriot Club hosts its annual Champions Dinner. That will take place at Mason Inn with a 7 p.m. Reception and an 8 p.m. Dinner and Awards Program. Lindsay Czarniak of NBC Sports will be the Keynote Speaker as the 1985 National Champion Women’s Soccer Team is honored on the 25th anniversary of their bringing home the first-ever team national title to Fairfax.
Back to women’s soccer. The Patriots are 2-0 in the CAA for the first time since 2000 and they will look to go to 3-0 for the first time since 1997. That year, incidentally, they began the year 6-0 in CAA play. Mason will be hosting VCU, a team that beat the Patriots 2-1 last year in overtime. Both VCU goals came on penalty kicks. A tie in that match and Mason makes the CAA Tournament last year rather than tying for fourth and missing out on a tiebreaker.
Evan Feldman, who scored her first career goal on Sunday against William & Mary wrote this week’s women’s soccer player blog.
“As we enter the second weekend of conference play, it is such a great feeling to have two wins under our belts! This past weekend was so exciting for the team giving us the momentum and drive we need to enter our games against VCU and JMU. What better way to start the third phase of our season than on our beautiful stadium field and coming out 2-0 to open up the conference season.
“Each game we play, we grow more and more to find our rhythm and style. Throughout our non-conference season, we worked together to sort out our kinks to find what system fit our personnel. That’s what non-conference play is for. It was a true test of our character and team morale. We even experienced some of that feeling when we stepped out on the field last Friday against ODU. We found ourselves fighting to try to gain momentum to come back from a flat first half. We knew at half-time that our performance was not an indication of how much we’ve grown since August, especially after competing against Maryland. By the second half and into overtime we started to find the tempo we were looking for. As a unit we defended together and created countless opportunities. Finally after persistent effort we were able to get the ball in the back of the net. After the game we accepted that the first half was a learning experience and that we needed to compete together for 90 minutes from kickoff. Immediately after the game our heads were only in one place – Sunday’s game against William and Mary.
“There was such a bright atmosphere Sunday afternoon. The team was glowing with energy and optimism. It was so obvious. Entering the game against William and Mary, we finally came out at the first whistle with full force. It was great to see the team possess and create chances from the start – the way Mason soccer does it! We set the tone for the game and dictated how William and Mary responded to us. With intense momentum and pure possession we were able to score early. But as it happens in soccer, there were minutes of break down where William and Mary took advantage to tie the game soon after our lead. There will always be ups and downs in the game. How we handle it as a team is what determines our fate. And with that, through will and determination, we were able to gain our lead in the last ten minutes of the first half. From there, it was evident that we had the will and confidence we needed to solidify the win by putting away two more goals in the second half. A perfect end to a great opening weekend.
“We now know after competing against teams like Maryland and having such a successful weekend, that we are a force in the CAA. We will take this weekend one game at a time with VCU Friday and JMU Sunday, respecting both teams but knowing that we are a top contender. All we have to do is come together as a unit and battle for 90 minutes. When we work together we find success. Both games are very personal to us, but the game is simple. We play free and for each other and let the past be ammunition to our success. That’s why we love the game.”