James Nosek | Press Box Perspectives Editor/Columnist
There is a lot to prove this year for the veteran Comets; maybe more than is expected. They’ve gotten off to a quick 5-1 start and along the way have chopped down some obstacles that they have taken personal as they try completing their difficult goal of “be the first.”
One obstacle would be proving that the Cincinnati Enquirer pre-season coach’s poll was a phony and so far it is working as they beat Colerain, a team ranked higher than them before the season, and beat a surprisingly solid Fairfield team that easily could have knocked off Mason a week ago.
Another obstacle is Middletown, ranked number one in the GMC pre-season and winners against Mason in mid December; the Middies will be in the race for a title all year.
In Mason’s last meeting with Middletown there was definitely some Middie vulnerability shown in the game though, only that was ruined by a Comet fourth quarter meltdown. Looking at the overall, the Middies are beatable if Mason can stay strong at the end of the game. Both teams will have their rematch on February 10th in the second to last game of the season.
If Mason wants to spend their off-season bragging about “being the first,” then Middletown will be their biggest mountain to climb, not to mention two games against Lakota West, currently first in the GMC, and a game against Princeton, one of the most dangerous teams in the conference.
Coach Richards definitely feels like his fellow GMC coaches are downing the talent that Mason has, and through six games, players like Darin Harris, JD Sprague and Michael Van Kleunen, have shown that Mason doesn’t deserve that sixth place pre-season ranking. Sure big time seniors graduated last year, like Ethan King and Brian Carden, but because the whole starting lineup for the Comets is senior-heavy, maybe last year’s graduated class doesn’t mean as much.
Many Mason players before the season said that this year is a lot different than last season, mostly due to a much better team chemistry. Glancing at the stats, that is definitely true: Mason is first in the GMC in team assists (101) and even the style of play has proven that.
“Our players have committed themselves more than any team we’ve ever had,” Richards said before the season.
The GMC currently is topped by Lakota West and Princeton but looking toward the future, West won’t stay on top for long because: one, they have played a weak schedule so far and two, they don’t have enough fire-power to beat a Middletown or Princeton.
Thinking about it, who knows if West could pull off a win against Mason, as the Comets really have a high-powered team lead by Harris, Sprague and Van Kleunen.
If those three Comets keep it up, there could be a Princeton and Middletown upset in the future as well and that would definitely shake those pre-season rankings up a bunch.
Mason should start off the next few games on a hot note before their match-up with West in a couple weeks. They play Loveland, Milford (both non-conference FAVC schools) and Oak Hills, a weaker GMC team in the next three games and looking at those games, they are all very winnable.
These games will be important for the team to gain momentum and get back to full strength, as there are a few injuries still bugging the Comets, like Connor McVey’s off-season knee injury and Kevin Niehoff’s groin injury.
Really the theme for the rest of the year is: “winning the winnable games.” If they can beat teams they are supposed to win against and play well in those games, that will set them up for stronger match-ups like Princeton and Middletown, games that they will need every weapon they have if they want to come out with a victory.
When December ends, January will be highlighted by two big games: LaSalle, a top Catholic school, and Princeton, which is the more important of the two because of the high profile conference game. Sure Mason plays West on the 6th of January and that will be a tough game but like before, it seems like the Comets will get out of Lakota with a win.
Mason is off to a good start but that is the same with many teams; they are going to have to stay with the pack for the rest of the year if they want to prove people wrong, if not, it is going to give everybody the perfect opportunity to say: “told you so,” three words the Comets are trying to avoid.