Last season, the Marriotts Ridge girls soccer team won the county championship in large part because of its stout defense.
While so much is different than 15 months ago — from new players to a shortened schedule due to the pandemic — one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the Mustangs’ defense remains the best unit in Howard County.
With a smothering defense and talented midfielders, undefeated Marriotts Ridge pitched its third shutout of the season Thursday in a 1-0 win over Glenelg.
“What we’ve worked on for the past few weeks is defense first,” said Mustangs head coach Darius Qualls. “For us to be able to compete, we’re going to have to defend well. We’ve given up a lot of opportunities for our offense to make sure the defense is the way we need it. In the coming weeks, we’ll work on the offense and get that taken care of.”
The Mustangs’ defense allowed only one shot on goal and none in the last 78 minutes of the game. Senior defender Morgan Choe, who was a first-team All-County selection last season, said “communication is the key” for the Mustangs’ sturdy back line.
“If we’re too high or too flat, we’re going to get beat,” Choe said. “Our main focus is to make sure that one of us is supporting each other and that our back line is connected. We’re trying to limit the attacks through the middle.”
The contest’s lone goal was a header in the first half from Marriotts Ridge freshman Gabi Roberts off a cross from Mollie Anderson. The goal was Roberts’ second of her young career.
“We knew she was talented coming in,” Qualls said. “It’s not a surprise to me that she’s playing as well as she is. She scored the first goal in the game against Howard, too. We know what she can do, and we know what she adds to this team.”
While the Mustangs controlled the pace for much of the game, it was Glenelg (2-2-1) that had the possession advantage early in the rainy contest. The Gladiators opened the match at Marriotts Ridge (5-0) with three corner kicks in the first two minutes, but Vincente D’Antuono’s squad couldn’t capitalize on any of the chances.
The first opportunity was nearly a goal, but Mustangs goalie Caroline Albert jumped and punched the corner kick away. However, the second corner kick was too short and the third was too far, and neither resulted in any shots on goal.
Scoring against the Mustangs isn’t easy, though. Last season, Marriotts Ridge surrendered eight goals in 14 games and only three in nine county contests. This season, the Mustangs have allowed only two goals in five games.
“The girls gave themselves some opportunities there but weren’t able to tuck any away,” said D’Antuono. “Marriotts Ridge has a lot of talented players. They’re fortunate to have a good coach who helps them to be successful. They’re fun to watch.”
Twenty minutes after Glenelg’s early chances, Anderson and Roberts connected for the Mustangs’ game-winning score. Roberts, who was five yards away from the goal, ducked and lowered her head to redirect the ball at a 225-degree angle into the bottom-left corner of the net.
“It was awesome to score,” Roberts said. “[The pass] was low, so I had to get my head on it. But it was a perfect ball from Mollie.”
The Mustangs had several scoring chances in the second half, including two sharp shots from Megan Wagner, but Glenelg goalie Kendall Castor was strong in goal with six saves.
With the win, Qualls’ squad remains one of two unblemished girls soccer teams in the county alongside Reservoir (5-0). Marriotts Ridge is alone atop Division B in the county’s pandemic-induced scheduling arrangements, while the Gators are in first place in Division A.
“The key for us is teamwork,” Qualls said. “The camaraderie with this group has really come along the past month. It’s been impressive. When every player steps in, they know the expectations and they meet them.”
Starting Tuesday, the Howard County boys and girls soccer teams will begin playing their crossover games against teams in the opposite division based on the standings to that point. In the three crossover games, the odd-numbered teams in a division’s standings will play the even-numbered teams in the other division, and vice versa.
After the eighth game, currently scheduled for March 30, the county teams will then be seeded based on record. The top eight teams will be put in a bracket for a tournament to determine the county champion, while the bottom four squads will be placed into a three-game round-robin format to finish out the season.
Choe said the Mustangs need to keep improving in order to win the county title in April.
“We want to build our chemistry and build each other up,” she said. “We have a lot of new players, and they’re still trying to get used to the high school level. We’re all very talented, so I have no doubt that we’re going to keep getting better and better.”
Marriotts Ridge 1, Glenelg 0
Goals: MR — Gabi Roberts.
Assists: MR — Mollie Anderson.
Saves: MR — Caroline Albert 1; G — Kendall Castor 6.
OTHER GIRLS SOCCER SCORES:
After falling behind early on thanks to a free kick goal from Hammond’s Camryn Johnson, Reservoir (5-0) regrouped to score seven unanswered goals to remain undefeated on the season. Maggie Scicchitano had a one-time finish five minutes after the Hammond (0-5) score to tie the game.
Hammond goalie Caroline Schreier (21 saves) made several strong stops to keep things all square until just five minutes remaining before halftime, as Gabbie Champman scored to put Reservoir ahead for the first time. From there, the Gators built on the momentum to secure the six-goal victory.
Goals: Re — Karis Turner 2, Kat Parris 2, Maggie Scicchitano, Gabbie Chapman, Avery Oergel; Ha — Camryn Johnson
Assists: Re — Parris 2, Oergel, Turner, Sophie Davidson, Monica Prince, Sam Gucchait.
Saves: Re — Lizzie Dudzinski 1, Maddie Roberts 1; Ha — Caroline Schreier 21.
Two goals from Danielle Campbell, one in each half, helped the Lions (2-2-1) come back from a first-half deficit on the road against the Eagles (1-4). With Howard’s starting goalie out with an injury, backup Gabby Scott came in and made seven saves to help secure the win.
Centennial got on the board 22 minutes into the first half on a goal by Lauren Pelligrini before Howard answered back 10 minutes later with Campbell’s first score. That initial Lions’ score was a breakaway set up by a through ball from Sarah Gibbons. Campbell then later delivered the game-winning goal on a direct free kick outside the box with 20 minutes to go in the game.
Goals: Ho — Danielle Campbell 2; C — Lauren Pelligrini.
Assists: Ho — Sarah Gibbons.
Saves: Ho — Gabby Scott 7; C — N/A.
River Hill 4, Wilde Lake 1
Ara Omitowoju continued her strong week by scoring two goals and adding an assist for the Hawks (3-2) in the team’s second straight victory. Wilde Lake (2-2-1) got its lone goal from Jillian Ingram in the first half.
Goals: RH — Ara Omitowoju 2, Ellie Goldberg, Alyssa Barker; WL — Jillian Ingram.
Assists: RH — Ellie Goldberg, Ara Omitowoju, Maddie Florenzo, Grace Turney; WL — Ashlyn Bonner.
Saves: RH — N/A; WL — Hannah Lowry 14.
A first-half goal from Samantha Babik, off a feed from Alicia Bauer, was the difference in helping the Lightning (2-2-1) hand the Raiders (2-3) their second straight defeat.
Goal: LR — Samantha Babik.
Assist: LR — Alicia Bauer.
Saves: LR - Kailey Leibe 5; A — N/A.
Oakland Mills vs Mt. Hebron (PPD)
Senior captain Bryson Baker recorded the hat trick, accounting for all of the goals for the Eagles (4-1) in the road win over Howard (2-3). Cameron Grable assisted on two of the goals, while Kodee Karcher assisted on the other. Centennial’s defense, led by junior captain centerback Sammy Molz, posted its first shutout. Goalie Parker Gerrity (5 saves) also did his part in keeping the clean sheet by making a point-blank save in the second half.
Assists: C — Grable 2, Karkcher.
Saves: C — Gerrity 5; Ho — Banga 3, Ryerson 3.
Reservoir 3, Hammond 2 OT
The Gators (3-1) scored twice in the first half and then watched the Golden Bears score twice after halftime to force the game into overtime. Nathan Macek was eventually the hero for Reservoir, scoring the game-winning goal in the extra period off a free kick from Xavi Sabillon.
Noah Gantt scored the first goal of the game for Reservoir off a feed from Mang Tuang and Macek delivered the second goal 27 minutes into the first half off an assist from Gantt. Joel San Martin scored both of the goals for Hammond (3-2).
Glenelg 3, Marriotts Ridge 2 OT
Zach Kersh scored the game-winning goal in the first overtime period to help the Gladiators (2-3) win their second straight game. Marriotts Ridge (1-4) had scored with 27 seconds remaining in regulation to force the extra period.
Goals: G — Kersh 2, Kryder; MR — Bryan, Zhong.
Assists: G — Barajas, Jolayemi; MR — Groman, Citro.
Saves: G — Tajali 5; MR — Sloan 4
Mt. Hebron 3, Oakland Mills 0
The Vikings (5-0) remained the county’s lone undefeated boys soccer team and recorded their fourth shutout in five games. Liam McCaffery scored two goals and Alex Likakis scored the other, with Ethan Wool-Lewis picking up an assist.
River Hill 4, Wilde Lake 1
Wilde Lake (1-4) got off to a quick start with an Ousman Touray goal in the seventh minute. But River Hill (4-1) settled down and scored five minutes later on goal from Milan Gupta to tie the score up. Jed Dixon added another goal before half to take a 2-1 lead. Gupta and Aidan Edmonds scored in the second half to create the final margin, with assists coming from Jed Dixon and Jonah Stoutenbourough.
Goals: RH — Milan Gupta (2), Jed Dixon, Aidan Edmonds; WL — Ousman Touray
Assists: RH — Jed Dixon, Jonah Stoutenborough.
Saves: RH — Eric Gesell 7; LR — Nate Jones 16.
Long Reach vs Atholton (PPD)
Marriotts Ridge def. Mt. Hebron — 2-0 [25-13, 25-17]
The Mustangs (3-2) swept the Vikings (1-3) at home for their third victory in the last four matches.
Marriotts Ridge stats: Rhisen Davis (6 kills, 9 digs), Julia Mamo (12 digs), Brenna O’Reilly (3 aces, 8 digs, 11 assists), Rachel George (3 kills, 1 block, 2 digs) and Madison Wray (6 assists, 1 ace).
Mt. Hebron stats: Morgan Amos (6 kills, 6 digs), Emerson Rose (8 assists, 5 digs), Lauren Taylor (7 digs), Caroline Zheng (5 digs), Sydney Jones (3 kills).