The night could’ve been an emotional dagger. Instead, the Marriotts Ridge field hockey team turned it into a statement.
Seemingly moments away from victory, the No. 8 Mustangs watched Glenelg sophomore AJ Eyre tie the game on an improbable, acrobatic goal with 17.9 seconds left in regulation. Once in 7-on-7 overtime, however, they needed just over 2 minutes to finish what they started, as Maisy Clevenger deflected in a shot from fellow junior Sophia Baxter for a 3-2 win over the host No. 15 Gladiators on Friday.
“This team … they battle, they fight,” Marriotts Ridge coach Molly Milani said. “They know it’s not going to be an easy road to get to states and beat some of the more difficult teams, but I do think they’re a team that gets motivated by that kind of stuff. Once we went into the 7-on-7s, I was pretty confident they knew what to do and would fight through it.”
Marriotts Ridge (3-0), the defending Class 2A state champion, has outscored its first three opponents 14-4. Clevenger had two goals for the Mustangs, who tallied as many goals as Glenelg (3-1) had allowed in its first three games combined.
Friday’s game was back and forth until the end, with Marriotts Ridge twice taking one-goal leads, only to have Glenelg pull even.
The Mustangs seemed primed for a win in regulation after Freeman scored on a bullet from 10 yards in front to put her team up 2-1 with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
But as the clock wound down, the Gladiators found a miracle when Eyre took a pass off a restart just over 20 yards from the goal, then weaved through four defenders. She lunged to her left and took a swipe at the ball, sneaking it into the near corner of the cage from a severe angle with 17.9 seconds left for her second goal of the night.
“I don’t think we ever felt defeated,” Clevenger said. “I think we knew we had it.”
And, just 2:16 into sudden-death overtime, Clevenger made certain they did, getting her stick in the air to redirect Baxter’s hard shot from just inside the circle on the right side.
“My position is to go in on pads and deflect the drive that’s coming from the top … and that’s just exactly what happened,” Clevenger said. “Sophia dragged it in and hit it up.”
For Glenelg, it was a tough way to lose, particularly after the excitement that came with forcing overtime. For coach Nicole Trunzo, however, the final minutes were emblematic of her team’s play throughout the night.
“Our consistency in a whole quarter was very off today,” Trunzo said. “When it was on, we dominated. Then when it was off, we would play down. A team like Marriotts Ridge is going to capitalize on that and score.”
It’s been nearly two years since Marriotts Ridge captured its first state title. Players said it’s the memories of that moment that keep them focused in games like Friday’s.
“Every single time we walk by the trophy case in school, it feels like yesterday,” Clevenger said. “I think that’s what keeps us going … getting there again.”
Goals: MR-Freeman, Clevenger 2; G-A. Eyre 2.
Assists: MR-Haghgoo 2, Baxter ; G-B. Eyre
Saves: MR-Windsor 8; G-DiValentin 4.
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Half: Tied, 1-1.