Throw out the predictions, and fasten the seat belts, whenever Mt. Hebron and Marriotts Ridge play. "No matter who is more talented or who is favored, both teams go out and play a great game. That's just who we are. It's the competitive nature of the 'Battle of (Route) 99.' Every time we play Hebron, you know it is going to be a great game," said Marriotts Ridge's Zoe Stukenberg.
Wednesday's Class 3A/2A East regional championship might not be described as a classically "great" game, but it will go down as very memorable one for the two schools located just off Route 99.
Mt. Hebron upset Marriotts Ridge, 10-8, avenging a loss in the same game a year ago and simultaneously giving the Mustangs their first loss of the season.
The final score was close, but, technically, the game was not.
Mt. Hebron controlled the draw and the tempo from the very start. Earlier in the season, the Vikings lost to Marriotts Ridge, 12-6, but the Vikings have come a long way since then.
"Draw! Draw! Draw!" chanted the Mt. Hebron sideline players as teammate Sam Brookhart and her Marriotts Ridge counterpart, often Stukenberg, stepped to the center line to prepare to draw.
It's no secret that draw possession is important in girls lacrosse, and Brookhart helped give her team a 14-6 advantage in draw control.
"I ran into someone I couldn't beat on the draw," Stukenberg said. "If this has taught me anything, I'd better get myself a draw coach real soon because other people are."
"Draws were huge," said Mt. Hebron coach Trish Derwart Sullivan. "There's no one better to have than Sam. She's a fantastic athlete and such a stable level-headed player. She was able to make the adjustments and to maintain dominance of the draw."
Once Mt. Hebron's players had the ball in their sticks, they spread out and went into a deliberate, patient offense.
"We played a lot of defense today," Marriotts Ridge coach Natalie Gaieski said.
"We needed to be patient and elongate our possessions," said Derwart Sullivan. "We knew if we had the ball, they didn't."
After Jamie Schwartz, Brookhart and Jennifer Giles scored in the first nine minutes of the game — and Marriotts Ridge had barely touched the ball — the Mustangs called a time out.
Stukenberg scored on an 8-meter shot and Molly Fleming scored on a turnover to breathe a little life into the Mustang offense, but Mt. Hebron was relentless. The Vikings wouldn't let Marriotts Ridge, the defending state champion, capitalize on its team speed or its transition game.
"It was like trying to pour syrup down hill, it just wasn't moving," Stukenberg said. "We'd get a little momentum and then it would stop. We'd get a little momentum and then they would score [three] goals."
Mt. Hebron led, 8-4, at the half.
"I felt like they did such a good job of taking us out of the game," Gaieski said. "They slowed us down, slowed us down, slowed us down."
Mt. Hebron's victory stops the 28-game win streak Marriotts Ridge had going. The Mustangs were 17-1 this year.
However, Derwart Sullivan said it wasn't important who her team was playing.
"It's not us playing Marriotts Ridge, it's us playing for Mt. Hebron. That's what makes the difference. …That was the mental state that was critical for us being successful in this game. We were able to achieve that confidence walking in the gates" to the stadium.
Gaieski saw it much the same way.
"Mt. Hebron came out and they wanted it. They weren't intimidated by us. They came in knowing that they could play with us," she said. "I'm not disappointed in my girls at all, they fought to the end."
Haley Sutton led Mt. Hebron's scoring with three goals. Stukenberg was Marriotts Ridge's top scorer with four goals.
The regional title is the 20th in school history for Mt. Hebron. It is also a state record in girls lacrosse. Mt. Hebron will play Queen Anne's in the state semifinals May 18 6 p.m. at Annapolis High School.
Mt. Hebron 10, Marriotts Ridge 8
Goals: MH - Sutton 3, Schwartz 2, Giles 2, Brookhart 2, Marciniak. MR - Stukenberg 4, Grote, Fleming, Davey, Hensh.
Assists: MH - Schwartz 2, Giles. MR - Grote 2, Hensh.
Saves: MH - Fisher 5. MR - S. Ortell 3, R. Ortell 4.
Halftime: Mt. Hebron, 8-4.
Class 4A/3A North
A day after easily defeating Quince Orchard, the region's top seed, 18-5, Howard ran into a tougher opponent in No. 2 Westminster. The Owls defeated Howard, 13-7, to win the regional title.
Howard finished its season 10-7.