Glenelg senior Emily Nalls stepped to the edge of the circle and knew exactly what had to be done.
Monday’s 2A South region semifinal between the Gladiators and top-seeded Marriotts Ridge came down to securing one final draw and, as far as Nalls was concerned, failure was not an option.
“Your brain really is an unbelievably powerful [organ], so you just have to think that you want it and know that you are going to do whatever it takes to get that ball,” Nalls said. “I feel like it’s all a mindset at the point … it’s just a matter of who wants it more.”
With 13 seconds left and Glenelg (13-3) ahead by a goal, freshman Maura Murphy flipped the ball in Nalls’ direction and she did the rest — scooping up the ball and racing down the field to run out the clock on a 10-9 victory.
Nalls finished with three goals and two assists, joining Emma LeTellier (3 goals) for top scoring honors for the Gladiators, and Glenelg avenged a 10-8 defeat against Marriotts Ridge (13-3) during the regular season. The three-time defending state champions have eliminated the Mustangs from the playoffs each of the last four years and now advance into a region championship match-up against Southern on Wednesday.
“From that loss against them [in April], we’ve learned a lot about our team. And obviously getting here and coming out with a win … it’s the best thing ever,” said Glenelg coach Nikki Trunzo. “This time of year it’s one and done, so the wins just mean that much more.”
On the other side, it was heartbreak once again for a Marriotts Ridge team that has lost by a goal to the Gladiators in the playoffs two straight seasons.
Victoria Hensh finished with a game-high four goals and the Mustangs battled back from a four-goal deficit in the early stages of the second half to give themselves a chance, but it simply wasn’t quite enough.
“We have a great group of ladies that are fighters and they played with a lot of heart and hustle until that very last second. And I’m proud of them for that,” Marriotts Ridge coach Amanda Brady said. “But it doesn’t make this sting any less. This group is special and it’s tough to see the season end like this.”
When the two teams met during the regular season, Marriotts Ridge had raced out to a 5-0 lead in the early stages of the opening half and built a 9-3 lead by the first few minutes of the second on the way to earning the win.
It was obvious right away that this meeting was going to be different. Glenelg got on the board first with a goal from Jenny Giampalmo (2 goals) four minutes in and then traded scores with the Mustangs the rest of the first half en route to going into the break tied 4-4.
Then immediately out of intermission, the Gladiators scored four unanswered goals to open up its largest lead of the evening at 8-4.
“All season we’ve been more of a second-half team, so really keeping the game close in the first half and coming out with a tie really motivated us,” Nalls said. “We just had to finish it off and this is what we worked for.”
Marriotts Ridge chipped away at its deficit as the game wore on, getting back to within one on a goal by Eloise Clevenger (2 goals) with 13 seconds left in regulation. But once Glenelg secured the draw, its eighth draw victory of the second half, the celebration was all but underway for the Gladiators.
Glenelg (13-3) — 10, Marriotts Ridge (13-3) — 9
Goals: G — LeTellier 3, Nalls 3, Giampalmo 2, LePage 2; MR — Hensh 4, Clevenger 2, Cooke 2, Held 1.
Assists: G — Nalls 2; MR — Kennedy 2, Hensh 1.
Saves: G — Torres 4; MR — Ranta 5.
Mt. Hebron (9-7) — 16, Atholton (9-8) — 3 (3A East Semis)
The Vikings advance to face Stephen Decatur on the road in the region championship game on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Mt. Hebron will be looking to defend its region title from last spring.
Goals: MH — Michelle Pak 5, Jessie Barke 2, Olivia Suazo 2, Ashley Unkenholz 2, Christina Bodziak 1, Lindsay Connell 1, Ellie Miller 1, Sophia Smith 1, Mackenzie Strozyk 1; A — Kendall Dean 2, Violet Flores 1.
Assists: MH — Suazo 3, Barke 1.
Saves: MH — Georgia Ryan 3, Skyla Lloyd 2; A — Kyleigh Eaton 8, Devin Bautz 3.
Half: 10-2 MH.
Dulaney — 16, Howard (8-7) — 10 (4A North Semis)
Reach Brent Kennedy at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @BKBSunSports