Marriotts Ridge junior attacker Katie Thompson talks after the Mustangs’ 13-8 win over Howard on March 23.
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Aside from the opening moments of Friday night’s season opener, Marriotts Ridge and Howard girls lacrosse played to a draw. The Mustangs were in complete control early on and took a comfortable lead into intermission, but the Lions, behind a three-headed scoring attack, chipped away at the steep deficit as the second half progressed. They outscored the Mustangs, 7-4, in the period. Over the final 45 minutes, each team scored eight goals.
However, high school girls lacrosse games in Maryland are 50 minutes long, and those first five minutes were crucial in No. 6 Marriotts Ridge’s road win to start the 2018 campaign. The Mustangs scored five goals during that stretch, which proved to be the difference in their 13-8 triumph.
“We started off great, but you have to be able to finish,” coach Amanda Brady said. “Howard came back strong, and we knew they would — we talked about that at halftime that they weren’t going to be done — and we weren’t able to hold that lead.”
“We woke up in the second half,” Howard coach Katelyn Joyce added. “We controlled the ball, which is a huge thing against them. You have to be able to hang on to it, and then do something with it, and we showed we could do in the second half.”
With the schools closed because of inclement weather, Howard did not practice the past three days, which Joyce said hurt her team early on. She also sensed some nerves that come from playing a team like Marriotts Ridge, especially in the season opener. The Mustangs opened the season ranked No. 17 nationally according to US Lacrosse Magazine, and those first five minutes showed just how dominant they can be against some of the county’s top competition.
Junior attacker Erin Cooke began the scoring 75 seconds into the contest off a feed from Katie Thompson and then assisted on Gracie Kennedy’s goal a little over a minute after that. Next came three more goals, all before the 20-minute mark of the first half.
Several different players got in on the scoring barrage, and that balanced attack continued even as the scoring slowed. Five Marriotts Ridge players finished with two goals apiece and eight scored overall.
“We don’t want to worry about stats or who is scoring the most goals,” said Thompson, a junior attacker. “We just want to win and play as a team.”
Howard finally got on the scoreboard with just under 10 minutes to play before halftime, but the goal from Leah Spalding held little significance for a team that went into intermission down, 9-1.
Yet in the second half, the momentum turned in the Lions’ favor, it did not stem from anything Joyce or her girls said during the break. Her players were competing with confidence and performing up to their potential, the first-year coach said, and the result was a scoring run Marriotts Ridge did not expect.
“We let down a little bit,” Thompson said, “And I think that mental toughness is a big thing that we talk about every day in practice and in pregame. It’s something we need to work on, but it’s the first game, so I think we got it from here on out.”
Once ahead, 10-2, Marriotts Ridge allowed Kelly Schluederberg, Jamie Tsao and Jess Vetter to each score twice in the second half alone. And each goal gave Howard more belief it could compete with the Mustangs despite its poor start. The final tally, courtesy of Schluederberg with about 30 seconds to play, brought the Lions within 13-8, which was as close as they had been since the halfway point of the first half.
It served as a promising finish for the Lions while reminding the Mustangs the importance of sustaining their level of play throughout the entire contest.
“The biggest takeaway is that being able to start strong is great,” Brady said, “but [also] recognizing that mental toughness and being able to dig deep when it really counts.”