Darius Qualls didn’t think Giavana Liberto would be this good.

That’s not because the Marriotts Ridge girls soccer coach doesn’t think Liberto’s as good as she’s playing, but rather he thought the freshman would have a learning curve, as most freshmen do.

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If there was a adjustment period, it’s over.

Liberto scored a goal with less than 10 minutes remaining to lead the Mustangs to a 1-0 win over visiting Liberty on Tuesday. The freshman forward has scored six goals in her first seven career games.

“It’s tough for freshmen to step in against players who are two-three-four years older than they are,” Qualls said. “They’re taller and a lot heavier, but she’s been able to be consistent against tough teams. She scored the (game-winning) goal against River Hill, too. For a freshman, she plays way out of her league. She has been a very good asset for us from the beginning.”

Jordyn Choe assisted Liberto’s goal. The junior sent an accurate cross into the box, and Liberto placed a shot that couldn’t be saved by the Lions’ goalie.

“I saw my chance, and we really worked for it the whole game,” Liberto said. “I feel like I had to score there for my teammates. They’ve been so welcoming. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates.”

Neither team scored or had many shots on goal in the first 70 minutes of the game at Marriotts Ridge High School. After taking a 0-0 tie into halftime, the Lions controlled possession to start the second half, but they couldn’t find the back of the net. Liberty head coach Danni Prietz said her attack was too tentative in the loss.

“I just think instead of taking shots, we were dribbling and passing,” Prietz said. “We’re a possession team, so we look for the outside to cross it in. We were trying to get into the box to take shots instead of taking actual shots outside of the 18.”

The loss is the first for Liberty (6-1) this season. Prietz believes, however, that her girls will learn from the defeat and won’t lose confidence

“I actually think it will push us to go further and strive us to get better,” she said.

Qualls said his defense’s effort was “outstanding.” With only one senior defender (Lindsay Hockensmith), Qualls said his Mustangs allowing only five goals in seven games — including four straight shutouts — shows the skill of the young defense and goalie Kendall Bryan.

Marriotts Ridge (4-0 Howard County, 6-1) is in first place in Howard County and ends its regular season with five straight league games. The Mustangs play Mt. Hebron on Thursday and Wilde Lake on Monday, Oct. 7. Both the Vikings and the Wildecats are 4-1 in county play.

“We have to play one game at a time,” Qualls said. “We have to work together, and we have to be consistent. If they do those things, the chips will fall where they may.

Liberty’s next game is Thursday against visiting Westminster.

Box score:

Marriotts Ridge 1, Liberty 0

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Goals: MR — Giavana Liberto.

Assists: MR — Jordyn Choe.

Halftime: 0-0

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