There are numerous superlatives that could describe Marriotts Ridge’s 15-5 victory over Century in the Class 3A/2A state championship game Tuesday night at UMBC.
Relentless seems to tell it all.
The Mustangs dominated Century in all phases of a girls lacrosse game – they were faster, more agile, controlled the draw, got the ground balls, ran plays to perfection, scored nearly at will and played college-level defense.
“I don’t think Century’s ever had the clock running on them before,” Knights coach Becky Groves said.
In girls lacrosse, the clock continues to run when one team has a 10-goal lead.
Marriotts Ridge was up, 12-2, with 17 minutes left in the game.
“I never imagined (a running clock) in a million years,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Natalie Gaieski.
The Mustangs’ defense — keeper Rachel Ortell (10 saves), Alex McKay, Brooke Sharbaugh, Amanda Miller, Katie Berdy, Alexis Zadjura, Zoe Stukenberg and Taylor Hensh — held a team that normally puts up over 15 goals a game to a season-low five goals.
As the saying goes: Offense wins games but defense wins championships.
“You can’t count on playoff attack,” Stukenberg said. “What we’ve been able to count on is defense.”
Two years ago, when Marriotts Ridge won its first state title, the Mustangs held Century to four goals.
In the past four years, Century has won two state titles and been state finalists twice.
“We had a bad offensive night,” said Century’s Haley Bordner. “We just looked so scared. From the beginning we were not finishing shots. Mentally, we weren’t there on offense.”
Marriotts Ridge’s defense had a lot to do with Century’s woes.
The Mustangs refused to give up on uncontested shot. They packed in along the 8-meter mark and pressured relentlessly
Ortell said the defense got tighter and tighter as the season progressed.
“This group of defenders is the strongest and most cohesive unit I’ve ever played with,” McKay said. “It’s almost like you know what people are going to do.”
At the other end of the field, the Mustangs’ offense was very productive.
With five goals, Maggie Brooks did most of the scoring damage. Stukenberg and Hensh each added three goals.
Century tried to double-team Stukenberg, but the effort allowed her to tally six assists as she nimbly found an open teammate with pin-point passes.
Gaieski said she and her coaching staff knew early in the season that they had a special group. “And we knew that it was a state championship team. This team never gets overconfident; they never get cocky. They know that they have to work for everything they had.”
McKay, Stukenberg, Hensh and Zadjura were starters on the 2011 state championship team. Others on this year’s team were also on that squad.
Mt. Hebron won last year’s regional final to dash the Mustangs’ hopes of back-to-back state titles.
“Last year we were heartbroken,” said Brooks. “We wanted to get back to where we weren’t last year. We went into every game this season thinking about that.”
Marriotts Ridge beat Queen Anne’s, 13-5, in the state semifinals to set up the rematch with Century, and the Mustangs saved their best for last.
“Only one team gets to win a state championship,” Stukenberg said. “To not just win that state championship but every single person on our team performed at their best. …To put it all together is so rare. I’m happy that we could do it.”
Marriotts Ridge 15, Century 5
Goals: MR – Maggie Brooks, 5, Taylor Hensh 3, Zoe Stukenberg 3, Lexi Souder, Jenna Kerr, Marissa Davey. C – Morgan Marrale 2, Alexa McGovern, Hannah Warther, Madi Hall.
Assists: MR – Zoe Stukenberg 6, Jenna Kerr. C – Kailey Wolfe.
Saves: MR - Rachel Ortell 10. C – Allison Remenapp 6.
Halftime: Marriotts Ridge, 7-2.