When asked to pick a favorite moment in his four-year career at Marriotts Ridge, senior Brad Martinelli went all the way back to when he scored his first goal in the first game of his freshman year.
Since then, the All-Metro first-team midfielder has been part of plenty more memorable times.
The No. 4 Mustangs (11-0) have won three straight state championships and are looking to become the third school in Howard County to win four in a row. Wilde Lake and River Hill have accomplished the feat.
Martinelli has played a big role in the team's success. He controls the pace for the Mustangs, scores goals and dishes out assists. Going into Thursday's regular-season finale at Centennial, he has 28 goals and 28 assists in his career.
In addition to playing soccer, Martinelli also is on the Student Government Association's executive board and a member of the school's Key Club. He maintains a 3.2 grade point average and is still weighing his college options.
What does it feel like to chase a fourth straight state championship?
It's a lot of pressure. It seems like every day someone comes up to me and asks if we're going to win states again and go undefeated. It's like the same answer all the time — 'I hope so, but I can't promise you anything.' It can come down to one minute, one mistake in a game can be the difference between a win and a loss. In soccer, games can go any way and even if you are the better team sometimes it doesn't work out for you. I really hope we win again, but if we don't, I've had a great high school experience. Most players don't experience one state championship and I have three under my belt.
What has been the team's approach to maintaining success this season?
We're not getting caught up in the winning and just try to get better every day at practice. We're always working on our communication and any weaknesses and making our strengths that much stronger.
What do you enjoy most about playing center midfield?
I like that you can control the game more and dictate how it's played. You can speed things up or slow things down. Having [senior midfielder] Amir [Najib] hanging out with me in the middle is really good because I've played with him for a long time. I know him really well and we have good chemistry.
How do you control the flow of a game?
At the beginning of a game, you always want to get in the other team's mind that it's not going to be easy, not going to be slow and they're going to have to work to get the ball. So we always try to get some really good opportunities in the beginnging with a lot of pressure and intensity to get a goal early and set the tone. If we start losing our confidence and our possession is going down and things are getting a little sloppy, you want to slow it down and rebuild — make sure everybody gets some quality touches and everything is clean and connects.
How do you handle the extra attention teams employ to try to stop you?
It can be frustrating when you're being man marked but it gives me extra drive and I know I have to work harder. I kind of like how I have to work harder to get things done and I feel like I play better. You always have to be moving and make different runs.
What has been your favorite moment on the soccer field at Marriotts Ridge?
I would have to say my first varsity goal in my freshman year. It was a sloppy one, but they all count. [Former teammate] Pat Sullivan received a ball in the middle and I was playing defensive center midfield and wasn't being marked. So I just sprinted forward and Pat found me right away. I kind of panicked and shot it and it went over the goalie and in. It was the first game of the season, so it felt pretty good.
Playing in such a successful program, what have you learned from it that will help you in other areas of your life?
The importance of work ethic. In practice everything is done at a high pace. We practice like we play. You shouldn't be like, 'Oh, I'm not going to mark this guy because it's just practice.' Everything has to be competitive. We have a very competitive team and everybody hates to lose. You just have to work hard in practice and you'll see the success duriing the games.
What's it like being a senior?
I never knew what people meant by senior-itis until now. My brothers are in college now and they're all telling me to live it up and it's your best time and you'll never forget it. So that's what I'm trying to do, have fun every day and also continue to be successful in school and keep my grades up.