Gladiators top Reservoir for first Howard County girls soccer title; Marriotts Ridge complete surprising run to boys crown (VIDEO HERE!)



by Derek Toney

In a season delayed nearly six months, it was fitting the Howard County soccer campaign concluded in unlikely fashion Friday evening. Glenelg girls and Marriotts Ridge boys claimed the league title at Wilde Lake.

In a pair of 1-0 decisions, the Mustangs bested Centennial while the Gladiators held off Reservoir. The HoCo soccer season was shifted from the fall to a shortened spring campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the first time, Glenelg girls are Howard County champions. The fifth-seeded Gladiators used Kaila Spence’s first half goal and clutch defensive heroics in the second half to complete history.

“We have a range of kids, from freshman to seniors that looked out for one another. They were really looking forward to getting back to the field,” said Glenelg coach Vincente D’Antuono. “It’s really what they’ve been living for these past few months.”

“We really we wanted to play as a team and honor our seniors and our teammates, and it showed wit the way we played,” said Gladiator senior Tegan Swope. “Every single person had a part in that win out here.”

Spence, a junior, put a shot through the top of net with 31 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half, after playing the ball following a couple of caroms. The Gladiators (8-3-1 overall) weathered several terse moments after two goals were waived off for offsides.

Glenelg’s defense, featuring goalie Kendall Castor and Megan Ball, Ava Montgomery and Katie Ringer on the backline, kept the lead against Reservoir (9-2) intact. Montgomery cleared the ball off the goal line after it slipped past a diving Castor.

Castor who hit on the post during a save attempt earlier in the second half, played the final 15 minutes in pain. She had a critical stop in Thursday’s penalty kicks victory over top-seed Marriotts Ridge Thursday.

“She’s amazing,” said Swope. “She saved us.”

Glenelg defeated fourth-seeded River Hill, also in PKs, in last week’s quarterfinal round.  The Gladiators have won six state championships (1997, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2007 and 2008).

Now, they have a Howard County championship trophy to place in their trophy case on Burntwoods Road.

“What drove this team to this stage was our confidence and our team chemistry,” said Spence, a junior. “We finished the opportunity.”

Sitting 1-5 a month ago, Marriotts Ridge was outside the county tournament circle. But the field was expanded after regular season play, allowing all 12 HoCo teams to participate.

The Mustangs seized the opportunity, winning their first league crown since 2013. Robbie Groman’s tally with 26:48 was the difference for the Marriottsville school (6-5), the No. 9 seed.

Mustangs coach Quinn Khouri said his team’s 2-5 pre-tournament showing was more about how ultra-competitive Howard County is.

“They are no easy games and anyone has a chance,” said Khouri. “There wasn’t too many expectations for the boys being a nine-seed and they thrived in that underdog role.”

“We couldn’t string wins together, but once they expanded the format, we knew we could make a run.” said Groman. “We’re a special team and knew if we put one good performance in we could beat anyone in the county.”

Groman scored his first goal of the season, putting a shot off the left post for the game’s decisive score. The senior was also part of spirited defensive effort, keeping the second-seeded Eagles (8-2) off the scoreboard.

Centennial defeated the Mustangs, 4-2, during the regular season. The Marriottsville school defeated

No. 8 seed Atholton in the opening round, top-seed Mount Hebron (quarterfinals) and No. 4 Howard in penalty kicks Thursday.   

The Mustangs completed their improbable run Friday, but Khouri said it wasn’t a “Cinderella” story.

“I told the kids don’t think you’re less than anyone,” said Khouri. “Cinderella stories are great headlines, but honestly you got to believe you belong here. They’ve proved everything we’ve been saying all year.”