Delay helps Mustangs surge past Falcons in tourney final

FALLS CHURCH — For almost 10 minutes, Central’s girls soccer team hung even with nine-time defending Group 2A state champion George Mason. Then came a two-hour delay and everything changed.

The Mustangs came out of the delay like a bolt of lightning and used a scoring surge to pull away with a 5-0 victory over the Falcons in the Conference 35 tournament final.

“Before the game got halted I thought we were playing really well, really strong,” Central coach Kim Dellinger said. “And then once we came back out after the storms and everything we were not together at all. And they scored four in a little bit of no time in that first half.”

In the first nine minutes and three seconds, the Falcons were pretty even with the Mustangs in possession. George Mason had two shots, to Central’s one.

George Mason coach Allison Klink said she had a talk with her team during the two-hour lightning delay and her team responded.

“I think as much as I hate to say it the delay was the best thing that happened to us,” Klink said. “We came back out we were a completely different team. And that’s the way we normally play. And that’s the way we should play.”

After the delay, the Mustangs struck quickly. George Mason’s Isabella Armstrong scored just 31 seconds into the resumption of play off of a corner kick from Fiona Howard.

That was the first of a barrage of goals for the Mustangs in a 12-minute span.

Howard put the ball past Central goalkeeper Kendall Herbaugh off an assist from Armstrong with 22 minutes left in the opening half.

Just two minutes later, Armstrong scored again on an assist from Victoria Rund.

Armstrong completed her first-half hat trick with a goal just four minutes later for a 4-0 George Mason lead.

“We showed up after the delay,” Klink said. “It’s not easy when the weather changes and its wet, and you got to adjust.”

The Mustangs (18-1) controlled play most of the second half, but the Falcons held George Mason to just one goal.

Howard scored the final goal off an assist from Armstrong with 27 minutes left for a 5-0 advantage.

“We talked at the half, and I think they got kind of got things together a little bit,” Dellinger said. “And we had just as much possession at times as they did. And they scored just one in the second half. Our scoring opportunities — we had them we just didn’t take them.”

Central’s Ciara Philpott had a couple of the team’s best opportunities to score in the final five minutes of the game. She had two free kicks, but the Falcons were unable to get it past George Mason goalkeeper Laura Whitaker.

Armstrong had three goals and two assists for the Mustangs.

“Izzy is a smart player,” Klink said. “And she’s got great feet when she uses them and she was using them. Her ball movement — its hard to track. And she sets plays up for both herself and her teammates. And when she’s on and on fire, she’s a threat up top there. She did a great job.”

Both teams advance to next week’s Region 2A East tournament. The Falcons (12-5-2) will be on the road Monday in the regional quarterfinals.

Dellinger said he saw some positives from his team and some things they need to improve.

“I think we have things to work on, but I think we can work through them,” Dellinger said. “And hopefully Monday we do well.”