Leading by one in the 57th minute, Mt. Hebron senior captain Solana Wynn was flanked by Marriotts Ridge defenders.
The veteran alertly delivered a perfect ball to junior forward Leen Jawhar just outside the box. Without hesitation, Jawhar chipped the ball toward the far post and into the back of the net, doubling the Vikings’ lead. That goal proved to be the difference as No. 3 Mt. Hebron defeated No. 7 Marriotts Ridge, 2-1.
Two of the area’s top teams, the intensity and emotion were evident from the opening whistle. Last season, the Vikings defeated the Mustangs, 1-0, in the Class 3A East Region I championship en route to the program’s first state title.
“Coming in we knew this was going to be one of the biggest games of the year,” Jawhar said. “When we came in, we were just hyping each other up the whole time on the bench watching JV. We talked about what we were going to do, how we were going to go in intense. As we talked about it, we hit it right from the start, so there was no chance they could take advantage of us. We wanted to take advantage of the whole 80 minutes.”
The opening 30 minutes were challenging for both offenses. Jawhar took advantage of the Mustangs’ first mistake in the 33rd minute. She dispossessed a Marriotts Ridge defender just outside the box and then quickly beat Mustangs’ goalie Una Remmel to the left.
“As soon as that happens, they’ve got to thrive on that and Leen certainly does,” Mt. Hebron coach Timothy Deppen said. “Leen does, [Iva Damyanova] does that, she plays out on the right wing. They’re like heat seekers, they wait for that mistake and just go. To capitalize on that in the first half was great.”
The Vikings (6-0) held the high-octane Mustangs offense and Howard County leading scorer Giavana Liberto in check through the first half. Early in the second, however, Marriotts Ridge began spending more time in the attacking third.
Yet, the Mt. Hebron defense remained stout. The Vikings found that insurance goal in the 57th minute with Jawhar’s second tally.
“The goalie was coming out and recently I’ve been working on chipping,” Jawhar said. “I was like, ‘This is the perfect chance.’ Solana played the perfect ball in, so all I needed to do was chip it over the goalie and it’ll work.”
Three minutes later, Marriotts Ridge (6-3, 6-1) scored the first goal on Mt. Hebron this season. Junior Anna Hendrickson delivered a ball forward to Liberto inside the box, who chipped it over Claire Fitzsimmons.
“This is the group that I want to take into the playoffs with their attitude and the way they work together,” Marriotts Ridge coach Kudzai Dzimiri said. “I couldn’t be more proud. I know this isn’t the result that we wanted, but I’m more than proud of these girls coming and taking it to the next level.”
A one-game goal once again, the tension rose over the final 25 minutes. Mt. Hebron narrowly missed a pair of opportunities to extend the lead with shots going just over the crossbar and just wide of the post.
Marriotts Ridge also furiously pushed the ball forward, generating its only corner kick of the game in the 76th minute. The Mustangs weren’t able to convert as the Vikings quickly cleared the ball.
Searching for the tie, Marriotts Ridge played a ball toward Liberto in the final 30 seconds. However, Fitzsimmons was there to make her eighth and final save of the evening, icing the victory in her first game back from injury.
“I’m super proud of Claire,” Deppen said. “The first thing I noticed was how seamlessly she was talking to her teammates. It was like she’d never left the field honestly. In control of the defense, talking to everybody. Making good saves, coming off her line quickly. It’s so nice to have somebody with that much experience.”