Tied halfway through the second period, Marriotts Ridge senior forward Natalie Freeman meandered around several defenders at the top of the circle.
Gaining separation, Freeman fired the shot past Howard goalie Allayna Martone for the Mustangs’ second goal of the evening. It started a string of six unanswered Mustang goals in their 7-1 season-opening victory over Howard.
Several of Marriotts Ridge’s goals were created off penalty corners, as Freeman efficiently operated at the top of the circle. The Penn State commit finished with two goals and three assists to spearhead the Mustangs’ offense.
“We have a lot of people that create a lot of movement,” Marriotts Ridge coach Molly Milani said. “We have 11 seniors. Our entire starting lineup, minus one, is senior leadership. Obviously, Natalie creates a lot of forward offensive momentum. When she gets her hands one inch free in the circle, she can put it on cage.
“Even just game awareness, she sees the field and really can find the openings to create space for other people, which I think is huge in this game. They were looking to mark her pretty early on, but the biggest thing was using our outlets and finding the open space to find those passes.”
The Mustangs struggled to convert chances for much of the first quarter. Senior Camryn Fisher’s goal just before the quarter ended helped ignite Marriotts Ridge’s offense.
Howard’s offense found success early in thesecond quarter. Freshman Samantha Legge scored the first goal of her varsity career, evening the score at 1.
“She didn’t play timid,” Howard coach Courtney Sprissler said of Legge’s performance. “We played against a solid team and being a freshman there’s a lot of intimidation there can be playing against Marriotts Ridge. She didn’t let any of that get to her head. She was just solid and did what she had to do.”
Howard’s momentum was short lived as Freeman answered less than a minute later. The Mustangs pushed their lead to two on a penalty corner as Sophia Baxter scored far post on a feed from Freeman.
Marriotts Ridge extended its leadthe third. Baxter scored her second from a difficult angle, pushing the lead to 4-1.
“I was dribbling the ball baseline,” Baxter said. “When you see the goalie overcommit because most goalies think that you’re going to pass it back or you’re going to take it to stroke, as soon as they step, you’ve got to see the small angle and hit it.”
Ninety seconds later, the Mustangs offense converted anothercorner. Fisher put home her second goal of the evening off a rebound as the ball trickled through Martone’s legs on Freeman’s initial shot.
Marriotts Ridge continued to push the pace in the fourth quarter. Addy Obitz and Freeman added goals during the frame creating prime opportunities in front of the net.
While the Mustangs offense was finding success, the defense remained stifling. Howard was held scoreless the final 39:19, as Marriotts Ridge’s aggressive style of defense disrupted the Lions’ timing offensively.
“We’ve been talking about it all day,” Freeman said of the first game. “Since preseason started we’ve been saying, ‘We’re so excited to get the season rolling.’ This season especially is super exciting because last season we were going through all of our recruiting stuff. This year it’s our last year with the majority of our starting line being seniors. We all just want to win, we all want a state title.”