From the first day of practice in the stifling heat of August, the players for Marriotts Ridge faced almost unprecedented expectations.
The Mustangs entered the season as the three-time defending Class 2A state champions and this year's team had the challenge of trying to join Pocomoke, River Hill and Wilde Lake as the only boys soccer programs in state history to win four consecutive titles.
Marriotts Ridge responded in a most remarkable way by finishing the season undefeated and winning another state championship Saturday night with a 4-0 victory over Queen Anne's at UMBC Stadium. Connor Delaney and Sam Willsey each scored two goals and Jonathan Muth added two assists to lead the Mustangs, who also extended their unbeaten streak to 24 games, dating to Oct. 17, 2011.
"They worked hard and they kind of welcomed the pressure," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. "It was one of the most psychologically strong groups that I've had in just that they knew when to work hard and when to relax and have fun. When it was time to get things done, they would get things done. From the very start, there was a lot of confidence, but no cockiness."
Marriotts Ridge (17-0) gave up just nine goals this season and did not allow a shot until midway through the first half. Queen Anne's (16-1-1) entered the game undefeated and had allowed just seven goals all season before Saturday's onslaught.
The Mustangs went ahead when Willsey jumped above two defenders and scored on a header off Muth's corner kick in the 20th minute. Three minutes later, Delaney increased the score to 2-0 when he finished off a pair of passes between Nick Applegate and Brad Martinelli.
"Set pieces are our bread-and-butter and we go to it every game," Willsey said. "We saw them on film and how they defended. We knew how to attack them."
Delaney scored again with 5 minutes left in the half and the rout was on. Even though Queen Anne's was more effective with counter-attacks in the second half, the Mustangs were rarely threatened and Willsey increased the lead to 4-0 with 15:39 left in the game.
"This is my last game at Marriotts Ridge, so it was either go home with a 'W' or your last game ends with a loss," said Martinelli, who was part of all four state titles. "Everybody on the team helped me achieve that. It feels great to play four in a row. This is a better than all of the last three because it's my senior year. It's a good way to end my career."
Marriotts Ridge and Wilde Lake are the only programs to win the four titles outright. River Hill was co-champs with Towson in 2003. Pocomoke shared the title with Sparrows Point in 2006.
Class 1A boys — Brunswick 7, Washington 2: Senior forward Drew Emich scored four goals, giving him 26 this season to go with six assists, to lead the Railroaders (17-1-2) from Frederick County to the program's second state and first since 1990. Senior forward Kyle Simpkins scored both goals for Washington (12-5) to give him 101 for his four-year career.
Class 2A state championship
No. 3 Marriotts Ridge 4, Queen Anne's 0
Goals: Q- ; M-Delaney 2, Willsey 2.
Assists: Q- ; M-Muth 2, Applegate, Martinelli.
Saves: Q-D'Orsaneo 6; M-Miller 2
Half: M: 3-0