Not much went right for the defending state champion Marriotts Ridge girls lacrosse team in the first 34 minutes of Monday's sectional final.
No. 10 Century dominated possession and ran up a four-goal lead while the Mustangs were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball and managed just five shots. The No. 4 Mustangs, however, made up for it by scoring the final five goals of the game to take an 8-7 victory in the Class 3A-2A South Section I final.
Senior midfielder Taylor Hensh scored three of her five goals in the finishing run as the host Mustangs won the toughest girls lacrosse section in the state. Their six-team section included teams that had won 29 state championships.
The Mustangs won two of those, and the Knights had won six. This game was a rematch of last year's state final and the two had alternated Class 3A-2A titles for the past four years.
Marriotts Ridge (15-2) broke that pattern Monday, and it keeps alive its chance to repeat. In Wednesday's regional final, the Mustangs will meet River Hill, an 8-6 winner over Atholton in Monday's South Section II final. Marriotts Ridge defeated River Hill, 19-5, early in the season.
Against Century (12-5), which knocked off top-seeded Mount Hebron in Friday's sectional semifinal, the Mustangs looked out of sync until Hensh sparked some life into the offense with a free-position goal to pull within 6-3 with 15:26 left.
"We started winning the draws again, and we had movement on attack and played as a team. That's when the goals started coming," Hensh said. In the first half, "everyone came out kind of flat and jittery, and I think everyone was just wound up, and all we needed to do was relax and calm down."
After Sky Hyatt answered Hensh's goal to boost Century's lead to 7-3 with 12:31 to go, Hensh scored two more goals, Marissa Davey fed Lexi Souder for another and Alexis Zadjura fed Jenna Kerr to tie the game.
Hensh, who scored four of her goals on free positions, drew a foul and hit the 8-meter shot to put the Mustangs ahead 8-7 — their first lead since scoring the opening goal of the game.
"She just took over the game," Century coach Becky Groves said about Hensh. "She was scoring goals. She was getting the draws. It didn't matter where the ball was, she was there. I felt like again this year they had the best player on the field, and when you have the best player on the field, you usually win."
After her last goal, Hensh won another draw, but Century goalie Catie Pluta saved Davey's shot and the Knights set up on attack. The Mustangs defense then took over to save the team from a couple more turnovers.
Zadjura batted down a pass by the Knights to cause a turnover, goalie Rachel Ortell deflected Kylie Davis' free-position shot with 38.8 seconds left, and the defense collapsed on Madi Hall to help Ortell force her free-position shot high with 19 seconds to go.
With the victory, the Mustangs evened the series at 3-3 with the Knights, who won the first three meetings before falling to Marriotts Ridge in the state finals in 2011 and 2013.
For the Knights, who got two goals each from Hyatt, Davis and Hannah Warther, winning the early draws and playing patient offense helped them take the lead, but they've struggled to maintain leads at other times throughout the season.
"They got hot," Groves said of the Mustangs. "They won four or five draw controls in a row, and we just couldn't make a stop. Finally when we got the ball back, we just couldn't finish."
4 Marriotts Ridge 8, 10 Century 7
Goals: C—Warther 2, Davis 2, Hyatt 2, Hall; MR—Hensh 5, Souder 2, Kerr. Assists: MR—Kerr, Davey, A.Zadjura; C--none. Saves: C—Pluta 3; R—Ortell 4. Half: C, 4-2.