No. 3 Marriotts Ridge wasn't perfect Saturday night, but the Mustangs proved they're still pretty good.
Brad Martinelli scored two goals and added an assist, leading Marriotts Ridge (8-0) to a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Liberty (8-1) in a battle of unbeaten teams. Until the Lions scored Saturday, an opponent had not put the ball in the net against Marriotts Ridge this season.
"We knew we wouldn't go through the season without giving up a goal," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. "I told them it's not the end of the world."
Though the goal seemed to rattle the Mustangs, they rebounded late in the second half.
Marriotts Ridge controlled the action early in the game, putting several quality chances on the goal. Those opportunities finally paid off 15:44 into the game, when Martinelli took a corner. His delivery found the head of Connor Delaney, who pushed it past Liberty goalkeeper Drew Kalish for a 1-0 lead.
The Lions appeared to tie the game with 13:40 left in the first half, when midfielder Tony Starego headed a corner kick from Chad Artman past Mustangs goalkeeper Ryan Miller. The referee ruled, however, that a defender was interfered with and disallowed the goal.
The Lions finally scored early in the second half, when Sam Lipsky capitalized on a throw-in from teammate Luke Devine. Lipsky fired a low shot, which dribbled past the outstretched Miller to tie the game, 1-1, 6:04 into the second half.
"We're not used to giving up goals, so it was a bit of a shock," Martinelli said. "We had to fight through the rough stage [that followed], and I think we did a good job."
Though Liberty dominated the next 10 minutes, it was Marriotts Ridge that took advantage of a golden opportunity to take the lead. After clearing the ball down the field, Marriotts Ridge's Nicholas Appelgate was fouled in the penalty area, and the Mustangs were awarded a penalty kick. Martinelli made the most of the chance, beating Kalish to his left and high to give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead with 21:09 remaining in the game.
"He's one of the best players in the area," Flynn said of Martinelli. "Big players step up in big games, and he really did today."
Martinelli closed out the scoring with 1:15 left. With Liberty pressing to score the equalizer, Martinelli stole an errant clear, dribbled in and fired a high shot past Kalish for the 3-1 margin.
"Liberty has a quality program, and it's always a battle when you play them," Flynn said. "We had a meeting last week, and I called some of them out. I'm pleased with the way they responded. We fixed a lot that was broken tonight."
No. 3 Marriotts Ridge 3, No. 8 Liberty 1
Goals: MR -Martinelli 2, Delaney; L – Lipsky. Assists: MR – Martinelli; L- Devine. Saves: MR – Miller 4; L – Kalish 3. Half: MR, 1-0.