Marriotts Ridge sophomore goalie Colin Kelley felt like he owed his defense one final stop after all the unit had done for him Friday night against Glenelg. They created havoc for the Gladiators' offense through nearly 46 minutes of play with well-timed stick checks, pressure and perfect slides.
So when Glenelg's Michael Doughty got free in front and looked to have a lay-up that would have made it a one-goal game, Kelley fittingly made the stop with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left to preserve the lead and shut the door for a 6-4 victory.
"The defense had been playing so well in front of me that I had to come up with a big save at the end," said Kelley, who finished with 12 saves. "The defense played well the entire game."
Senior midfielder Lewy Anania and junior midfielder Peter Geier scored two goals apiece for the Mustangs (4-0 Howard County, 7-3 overall) to pace an efficient offensive night, but the defense led the way. They held the Gladiators (2-2, 3-6) to a season-low four goals and just one in the second half, and it was a similar performance to what they put together last May against Glenelg in a season-ending 7-5 victory in the opening round of the playoffs.
Marriotts Ridge coach Tony Incontrera said the defensive game plan was to try to limit their midfield as much as possible.
"They have four great midfielders. They can all get down the alley, they can all shoot it on the run, so we knew we would have to be ready to slide and recover and help out our guys up top as much as possible," he said. "Thankfully we have some midfielders who can play really good defense so we were able to trust them a little bit. They were in great communication today and Colin Kelley played his butt off in the goal. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker thought his team had opportunities throughout the game but failed to capitalize. The Gladiators outshot them 31-16 but few of those shots were from close range.
"They're a fantastic defense. ... They slide and recover well and they've got a heck of a keeper behind them. Their guys are big and physical and they all have good sticks," Hatmaker said. "Scheme-wise, they're tough. They know where to cover down and they make you hit the two or three extra passes to find the extra guy and by that time they've recovered. That's what makes them good."
Eric Gruber scored Glenelg's final goal with 2:26 left in the third quarter, but Marriotts Ridge walked away with the momentum. The Gladiators had possession for nearly seven minutes before Gruber's goal and they were forced to call a timeout midway through before finally finding the back of the net. Glenelg managed five total shots the rest of the way.
"That [possession] was great for them, it really was," said Incontrera. "That was really great for their confidence and they were buying into what we've been trying to get them to do and it was working. I think they're starting to see that. This being a very young defense, it takes them a little bit of time to get them to that point."
Offensively, the Mustangs did enough in the first half to create separation. Jake Polinsky tied the game at 1 with 9.6 seconds left in the first quarter and they followed with two more from Anania and Geier 33 seconds apart early in the second quarter to make it 3-1.
Glenelg responded to cut the deficit to one but this time Marriotts Ridge struck 37 seconds apart and took advantage of a Gladiators penalty midway through the stanza to extend the lead to 5-2.
Gruber scored his first of the game before the break and Geier's second early in the third quarter pushed advantage back to three. The Mustangs' defense clamped down and preserved the lead from then on.
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"We've been giving up a lot of goals, so this was nice to see. That is a very good offense for our guys to come out and lock it down like they did," Incontrera said. "... Coming off that loss to Urbana [on April 15], this is the team we expect to have day in and day out. That game against Urbana was an eye-opener for them that we have a lot of talent but if that talent doesn't shoe up anybody can beat us."
Marriotts Ridge (4-0 county, 7-3 overall) — 6, Glenelg (2-2, 3-6) — 4
Goals: MR — Lewy Anania 2, Peter Geier 2, Brett Gladstone, Jake Polinksy; G — Eric Gruber 2, Johnny Chaisson, Garrett Hesen
Assists: MR — Luke Ingersoll 2, Geier, Troy Hettinger; G — Michael Doughty, Tyler Nalls, Justin Silk
Saves: MR — Colin Kelley 12; G — Brian Doughty 8
Halftime: 5-3, Marriotts Ridge