Senior defender Sophia Haghgoo scored her second goal of the game with 1:16 left in regulation to give Marriotts Ridge field hockey a 3-2 victory over Mt. Hebron in Wednesday’s Class 3A East Region I championship game.
Marriotts Ridge (10-4) will return the state tournament after being crowned state champions in the fall of 2019.
The game-winning goal came after Haghgoo inserted a penalty corner to Natalie Freeman and the junior dropped a pass off to Sophia Baxter. Her shot was saved by goalie Kylie Ritter and Haghgoo was there to tap in the rebound.
The goal was similar to the way the Mustangs scored with 8:16 left in the third quarter to take a 2-0 lead.
Haghgoo inserted the penalty corner to Freeman, who passed to Baxter, and her shot was redirected into the goal by Haghgoo.
The visiting Vikings (6-8) responded with two goals to tie the game.
The first came on a goal by Natalie Machian after she wove through the defense with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
The equalizer came on a shot from deep by Paige Leitzel with 3:19 left in the game.
“We are a very strong team and we played a much better second half than first,” assistant coach Donna Schaaf said.
Marriotts Ridge won the time of possession battle in the first half thanks to strong midfield play from Freeman, Baxter, Emi Moran and Marin Kriner.
Freeman, a transfer from Garrison Forest, dazzled with her stick work and she turned that into the first goal of the game, just 28 seconds into the second quarter.
She dribbled through traffic from one side of the circle and delivered a devastating backhanded shot from deep in the circle.
“That’s one of my favorite things to do,” Freeman said. “My mom and I would come out to the turf around 7 and the lights were on and nobody was here and just shoot backhands for like hours.”
Molly Milani, who is in her second season coaching Marriotts Ridge after taking over for the team during the shortened spring season, has seen enough of Freeman to have high expectations.
“She is phenomenal,” Milani said. “She is one of the best that I’ve seen of all time. She is really fun to watch and what is really cool is she wants her teammates to improve too, so she is constantly helping them grow as well.”
Freeman was always to first one to deflect a shot when Mt. Hebron had penalty corners and she received the first pass on all of the Mustangs corners.
“She is not a ball hog,” Milani said. “She really does like to make her teammates look good and she is just a very intelligent player, she knows how to think like 10 steps ahead.”
Marriotts Ridge also got strong defensive efforts from Haghgoo, Margaret Hubbard and Kiersten Delk and Mt. Hebron got several blocked shots in the circle from AC Linder, but it wasn’t enough to stop the relentless pressure in the end.
“That team [Mt. Hebron] is so resilient,” Freeman said. “They are fun to play because their energy matches ours and they are resilient, they are a great team.”
Freeman also takes pride in her own team, who split with the Vikings during the regular season.
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“Everybody here wants it,” she said. “We all wanted it so much. The season has been so much up and down, up and down and this game mattered so much to us. The energy coming into this game was insane.”