Marriotts Ridge’s girls soccer team cleared a crucial hurdle towards what every team in Howard County enters the season in hopes of achieving — a county championship.

The Mustangs, who had already defeated Mt. Hebron and defending champion River Hill, improved to 6-0 in Howard County play on Monday with a 2-0 win over Wilde Lake. The team’s defense was stout once again in the shutout. Led by goalie Kendall Bryan and senior center back Lindsay Hockensmith, the Mustangs have allowed one goal in its last six games.

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“We don’t overlook any team,” said Hockensmith. “We won today, but tomorrow we’re right back into it. Yeah, we want to be undefeated (in county) and be able to say we won it and that we won it solidly. But we’re focused on our next game first, and we just want to keep getting better.”

Marriotts Ridge head coach Darius Qualls said it took some time for his defense to gain its footing. The Mustangs allowed five goals in their first three games and have two freshmen outside backs.

“It took a while for them to be a cohesive unit, but the last two weeks they’ve been working very hard and have been determined,” Qualls said.

Hockensmith — the lone senior on defense — said she’s proud of how fellow defenders Morgan Choe, Allison Yhim, Abigail Eldridge and Lauren Fisher have played this season. In the win Monday, the Mustangs didn’t allow Gia Johnson, one of the top goal scorers in the county, to beat them.

“At the beginning of the season, I was constantly talking to the outside backs and the other center back and making sure we stay connected,” Hockensmith said. “But as the season has gone on, we’ve become more unified.”

Neither team scored in the first half of the game at Marriotts Ridge (6-0 Howard County, 8-1). In fact, Wilde Lake (4-3, 6-3) controlled possession for much of the half, but the Wildecats couldn’t take advantage of their scoring opportunities.

“We didn’t finish our chances in the first half and didn’t capitalize on those opportunities,” said Wilde Lake head coach Megan Shea. “In the second half, when we went down a goal, we struggled to gain momentum back again.”

The Wildecats, who have lost two straight games after starting county play 4-1, were without Aicha Wilson — one of the team’s top players and scorers. Wilson was given two yellow cards in Wilde Lake’s 2-1 loss to Reservoir last week, which results in the player sitting out the team’s next game.

“Aicha is one of our strongest players on the team,” Shea said. “What she really excels at is going one-on-one on the wings. Marriotts Ridge is a wider field than we’re used to, and not having her isn’t in our favor. If we did have her we’d play the width a lot more.”

The Mustangs broke the tie with about 30 minutes remaining on a goal by freshman Giavana Liberto, who has scored seven goals in the first nine games of her career. Jordyn Choe sent a through ball into the box, and a lack of communication between Wilde Lake’s defender and goalkeeper gave Liberto a good look at the goal.

“If you’re that person to make the first touch, you have to finish the play,” Shea said. “There was some lack of communication there, where our defender made the initial contact, but our goalie didn’t know if it was hers or if the defender would finish it. We have to work on that lack of communication there.”

Sydney Brewer sealed the win for Marriotts Ridge about 20 minutes later when she hammered a shot from 25 yards out that nearly grazed the crossbar.

“That was awesome,” Qualls said. “Sydney is so used to playing defense, but I know she has the ability to attack forward.”

Both teams are back in action later this week. Marriotts Ridge plays at Atholton on Thursday, and Wilde Lake travels to Mt. Hebron on Friday night.

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Box score:

Marriotts Ridge 2, Wilde Lake 0

Goals: MR — Giavana Liberto, Sydney Brewer.

Assists: MR — Jordyn Choe.

Halftime: 0-0

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