Marriotts Ridge’s road to the state championship field hockey game wasn’t easy.
Three of the Mustangs’ four wins to begin the MPSSAA Class 2A playoffs were in overtime, including a semifinal victory in sudden-death shootout on Thursday.
They didn’t need extra time on Saturday, though.
Marriotts Ridge, led by freshman Maisy Clevenger’s game-winning goal and senior captains Emma Gladstein, Eloise Clevenger and Gracie Kennedy, handily defeated Oakdale, 1-0, for the program’s first state championship.
Marriotts Ridge coach Stacie Gado talks Mustangs field hockey after her team's 1-0 win over Oakdale in the 2A state championship on Nov. 9.
“This is the best feeling ever," said Gladstein. “My dream has come true now. I love this team so much."
Head coach Stacie Gado, who has coached the program for all 14 years of its existence, said celebrating with her players after the win was an “amazing feeling.” Marriotts Ridge (13-3-1) reached the title game in 2015 but lost to Hereford — the same school the Mustangs defeated, 2-1, in sudden-death shootout on Thursday.
“This is great for the entire team to have worked so hard throughout the entire year,” Gado said. “To win this game feels really good. They put all their heart into it, now they’re going to be a part of Marriotts Ridge history.”
Eloise Clevenger said once the Mustangs reached the postseason, they started believing that winning the state championship was possible. She said the three overtime victories during the postseason run showed the toughness of the team in crucial moments.
“I’m so happy and proud of this team,” said Eloise Clevenger. “Everyone fought so hard in those overtimes. Against Hereford, it was really scary, but we pulled through. I’m so happy we were able to pull through here.”
Neither team scored in the first half of the game on Kibler Field at Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium on the campus of Washington College in Chestertown. Both teams combined for one shot on goal, though No. 5 Marriotts Ridge dominated possession and led the corner count, 5-0, over No. 3 Oakdale (13-4)
The Mustangs maintained their possession advantage in the second half and scored with about 20 minutes remaining off one of their eight penalty corners in the half. Maisy Clevenger deflected a Megan Hettinger pass for the game’s lone goal — and the first goal of her career. Gado said Maisy Clevenger and fellow freshman Sophia Baxter, who scored the game-winning goal in the Mustangs’ quarterfinal win, have stepped up for the Mustangs after being called up from the junior-varsity team midway through the season.
“Maisy is super athletic, fast and aggressive, and Baxter has played great since she got called up,” Gado said. “In the past three games, Maisy has been starting and has been a contributor. The fact that her older sister (Eloise) is a senor helps, and it’s great that they were able to win this together.”
Marriotts Ridge’s midfield and defense were stout in the triumph, allowing only two corners to Oakdale and only one shot on goal. Senior goalie Grace Tolle, who was the hero of the Mustangs’ sudden-death shootout win in the semifinals, pitched her sixth shutout of the season and third of the postseason.
Oakdale head coach Allison Dudley said she was proud of how “tough” her team played.
“They played so hard,” Dudley said. “We just couldn’t get the call for that corner a couple of times, which was frustrating. Our defense played really well. Lilly (Murphy) still had an amazing game in goal, and Brooke Butler in the midfield doesn’t get enough credit.”
Dudley credited her senior class of Taylor Hardesty, Claire Przybocki, Emma McGaha and Butler for making a state championship appearance a possibility.
“It’s been a really exciting season, because we have a strong group of seniors,” she said. “This senior class is probably strongest Oakdale has seen. It’s going to be tough to see them go, but they’re really built this program.”
The victory caps a playoff run for the Mustangs that saw contributions from the entire team, Gado said. Kayla Brusco scored two goals in the overtime win over Glenelg; Kaylie Savage and Julie Lawler both scored in the region championship win over Wilde Lake; Baxter, like Maisy Clevenger, scored her first-career goal in the Mustangs’ overtime win against Queen Anne’s in the state quarterfinals; and Gladstein and Tolle, among others, played key roles in the semifinal win over Hereford.
“I think that’s how a state tournament should be. You should have close games,” Gado said. “I think having those tough games and coming out with those wins is part of preparing for a state championship. We knew even if it’s a tight game, we could get the job done.”
After the final whistle, the Mustangs rushed to their cage for the celebratory dogpile. Eloise Clevenger, Kennedy and Gladstein, the team’s senior captains, hugged for five seconds and then screamed, “We did it.”