When the second-ranked Marriotts Ridge boys soccer team gathered in August to prepare for the season, the players knew they had a bull's-eye on their backs as the defending state champions.
The Mustangs fully embraced the challenge.
Marriotts Ridge rolled through the regular season with only one loss and then dominated the state playoffs, scoring 16 goals and allowing one. In Saturday night's Class 2A state championship, Marriotts Ridge completed its mission, earning the program's second title with a 1-0 victory over No. 4 Liberty at UMBC. A first-half goal by Patrick Sullivan was the winner, and the Mustangs got their 12th shutout of the season.
"We want to be at the top, and we set that goal for ourselves," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. "We get to play big games. And when you're at the top, you're every team's biggest game. It's actually helps us prepare when you get to the playoffs. Every team comes at us like it's a championship game."
Liberty (13-5-1) had the better of the play early in the first half, dictating the pace and keeping Marriotts Ridge on its defensive end. James Fencil's long throw-ins created several scoring chances for the Lions inside the penalty area.
Marriotts Ridge (18-1) then settled down midway through the first half and began to settle into its attack. Lions goalie Ethan DeBandi was forced to make a diving stop on a header by Glazer in the 28th minute. The Mustangs broke through two minutes later when Sullivan one-timed a deft cross from Jack Onslow.
"At first, I got the ball in the middle and played it right to Jack," Sullivan said. "He showed great composure and didn't panic. He played a great ball."
Glazer, who finished the season with 28 goals, faced two and sometimes three defenders with little space to work. Liberty was careful to keep a close eye on both him and Sullivan after losing the regular-season matchup, 2-1.
"I had to somehow find the openings to get wide," Glazer said. "I was getting a lot of pressure on me. If I could, I would check to the midfielders and make runs down the line."
Ethan Bannar nearly increased the lead in the 43rd minute when he got behind the defense, but his low shot from 18 yards went just wide of the near post. DeBandi then stopped a point-blank volley by Glazer.
Liberty pressed forward in the final 20 minutes, and a free kick by Steven Witte from about 30 yards sailed just over the crossbar. The Lions had three corner kicks in the final two minutes but could not convert.
"It was even most of the game. We had our opportunities to score," Liberty coach Todd Muschik said. "Their wo main guys are Sullivan and Glazer, and we found them most of the night except for when they scored. Those two are very good players."