Glenelg was put in an unfamiliar situation Monday, as it looked at a one-goal deficit against No. 3 Marriotts Ridge with about 21 minutes left in regulation.
The top seeded Gladiators (17-0) had rarely trailed in any game this season, but ultimately they stuck with their game plan and came back to net three unanswered goals to propel an 8-6 victory over the Mustangs (13-4) in the Class 3A/2A South region semifinal.
“We said it in the beginning of the year it is states or bust with this group. That is what we’re going after,” said Glenelg assistant coach Alex Pagnotta. “I just think [Marriotts Ridge] came out and played a really good game. They were aggressive. We were tight. We had people going down left and right, and had to make changes. Different girls stepped up, but I was just confident in the work ethic.”
The two teams played tight during their regular season meeting as well, with Glenelg coming away with a 10-7 victory.
On Monday it was a back-and-forth contest, especially in the first half of action. There were four different lead changes throughout the outing, with the score tied five times, including at the halftime break.
"This team has had a lot of ups and downs in terms of finding our mojo and our way in which to play our best and throughout the season they’ve taken a little bit from every game," said Marriotts Ridge coach Amanda Brady. "We’ve learned a lot and we’ve been able to kind of kick it up and notch each game unfortunately today we were at the losing end of it."
Jenny Giampalmo opened up the game with a goal for the Gladiators, but Casey Sullivan responded for Marriotts Ridge shortly after with a free position goal to knot the score.
Glenelg’s Lindsay Letellier then fed Alayna Pagnotta for the goal, but back-to-back scores from Eloise Clevenger and Victoria Hensh gave Marriotts Ridge its first lead of the day with 12:03 left in the half.
Hayleigh Simpson and Caroline Blalock facilitated Clevenger’s goal after forcing a turnover on a double in transition near the sideline. The Mustangs quickly got the ball back down field and Blalock found Clevenger to tie the game at 2.
Hensh then won the ensuing draw and took it herself to the cage, ticking off just nine seconds before giving her team the one-goal cushion.
Letellier assisted Pagnotta and then O’Brien to give Glenelg back the advantage, but again Hensh was critical on the circle. She won the ensuing draw, which resulted in a goal by Erin Cooke.
Letellier picked up her third assist after finding Pagnotta again with four minutes remaining to extend the score to 5-4, but the Mustangs answered once more before the halftime whistle.
Sullivan got it started with a caused turnover on the defensive end, leading to a Lily Kennedy free position at the center hash. Kennedy buried her attempt with 50.8 seconds remaining and Marriotts Ridge's defense held on the rest of the way after Anna Callahan came up with the ensuing draw.
It was the first time all year Glenelg didn’t have the lead at intermission, but despite the, 5-5, stalemate the Gladiators weren’t going to stray from their routine that had gotten them to a perfect season thus far.
Like they typically do, they didn't talk much, but instead stayed loose and passed around the ball until it was time for the final 25 minutes of regulation.
“The game plan is what it is,” Alex Pagnotta said. “I just wanted them to stay warm, keep moving. We knew it was going to be a fight and a battle. We knew we worked really hard all year and that was a part of our routine and we weren’t going to change the routine because we’re tied at halftime.”
Marriotts Ridge capitalized on a Glenelg turnover early in the second half. Sullivan assisted Clevenger on the goal, putting the Mustangs ahead, 6-5.
However, the Gladiators held the advantage on the circle the rest of the half. They won the following three attempts off the draw, allowing them to control the clock.
“I don’t think we panicked when they took the lead,” Letellier said. “I think our team is really good about staying composed and sticking to our game plan, so we knew we just had to keep chipping away and keep doing what we know how to do and I think we were confident that we could continue to play well and get back up.”
Pagnotta tied the score for a final time with about 20 minutes remaining in the half. She picked up a rebound off the initial shot by Georgia Esmond, and snuck around the cage for the goal.
The two teams traded turnovers following the ensuing draw, but ultimately the ball ended up in the stick of Glenelg senior Courtney Renehan.
Renehan used her speed to draw a foul in the 8-meter, which put her on the center hash where she ripped a shot top shelf for the go-ahead goal with 11:23 remaining in the game.
“We need the ball in Courtney’s stick in the end,” Alex Pagnotta said. “She’ll make good decisions and close the game out for us. She is a quiet leader, so we have to kind of force her into the lime light… she is a very selfless player.”
The Mustangs were hit with a yellow card with 9:23 remaining, but played stout defensively forcing a turnover without giving up a shot on frame during the duration of the penalty.
“I think there were moments of execution, absolutely,” Brady said. “I think they played well and they played hard. Unfortunately, I think there was just a lot of whistles and a lot of stopped play during the entire game. It was really kind of frustrating not to have a flow going on, but sometimes that is the name of the game and unfortunately, you have to play until the whistle.”
It was Sullivan again who forced the turnover with a nice stick check on the defensive end, but Marriotts Ridge couldn’t capitalize. Carrie Hesen earned a charge call on the defensive end to give the Gladiators back possession. Renehan assisted Letellier shortly after to push the score to 8-6 with 6:53 remaining.
Despite not coming up with the ensuing possession, the Mustangs defense held strong with Olivia Ranta (11 saves) making key stops in the final five minutes to keep the score as is.
But Marriotts Ridge was hit with a critical yellow card with 3:42 left, which hindered the rally. Its defense worked hard to create a turnover, but time continued ticking down.
The Mustangs had two free position opportunities in the final two minutes, but Maddie McSally (11 saves) made both stops.
“They did what they could,” Brady said. “We had to go in to our full all-out defense and we caused a turnover. So what more can you ask at that point? To get the ball back at 1:43 or so and have two or three opportunities, shooting space, 8 meter, we weren’t able to finish when it counted the most unfortunately.”
Clevenger led the Mustangs with two goals and an assist, while Sullivan followed with a goal and an assist.
Pagnotta paced Glenelg’s offense with four goals, while Letellier added a goal and three assists on the day.
“I, and all of my teammates are so excited,” Letellier said. “We’ve been working so hard all season. Every day in practice, every game we push ourselves to the absolute limit and we just can’t wait to keep going, take it game by game and keep doing what we do best.”
The Gladiators state title run continues Wednesday when they host Section II winner Chesapeake-AA at 6 p.m. for the 3A/2A South region title.
Glenelg 8, Marriotts Ridge 6
G (17-0), MR (13-4)
Goals: G — Pagnotta 4, L. Letellier 1, Renehan 1, O’Brien 1, Giampalmo; MR — E. Clevenger 2, Sullivan 1, Hensh 1, Cooke 1, L. Kennedy 1.
Assists: G — L. Letellier 3, Esmond 1, Renehan 1; MR — C. Blalock 1, Sullivan 1, E. Clevenger 1.
Saves: G — McSally 11; MR — Ranta 11.