With the Marriotts Ridge girls’ lacrosse team’s offense sputtering late in a forgettable first half Tuesday evening against rival Mount Hebron, junior Zoe Stukenberg’s attempted stick check turned into a whack on the head for an unlucky Viking. The Maryland recruit’s zeal to force a turnover that could jumpstart her team resulted in a yellow card on what she later called “a frustration foul.”

But it didn’t take long for Stukenberg to move past those anxious feelings. The third-ranked Mustangs opened the second half with five unanswered goals in four minutes and 15 seconds and turned the offensive surge into a 12-6 win over the No. 8 Vikings in Marriottsville. Stukenberg and junior Maggie Brooks had four goals apiece and senior Nicole Grote added a goal and five assists as the Mustangs seized control in the race for the Howard County title.

“It’s such a mental game when we play them,” Stukenberg said. “The second half was the first time in my career where we’ve been able to open up and be ourselves against Hebron, and it felt awesome.”

Mount Hebron (7-2, 5-1 Howard) controlled the first-half tempo, capitalizing on several lengthy possessions to take a 4-2 lead into the break. When Marriotts Ridge (8-0, 6-0) created early scoring chances, Mount Hebron junior goalie Madison Fisher often snuffed them out with six of her 10 saves before halftime.

Marriotts Ridge Coach Natalie Gaieski, the 2011 All-Met Coach of the Year after leading the team to its first Maryland 3A/2A title, lost her voice this week, but in a whisper, she managed to tell the Mustangs they were playing scared.

“I said, ‘I don't care if you take 50 shots and you miss, at least you’re trying,’” Gaieski said. “You need to be a risk taker to win a championship.”

Gaieski’s squad didn’t waste any time taking the message to heart. The Mustangs forced a quick turnover after losing the opening draw and Brooks scored one minute into the half.

They proceeded to control the next four draws and turn them each into goals, taking the lead for good on sophomore Marissa Davey’s goal with 22:46 remaining.

“We just kept winning the draws and going with it,” said Grote, a New Hampshire signee. “We weren’t going to let up.”

Mount Hebron, which has just two seniors on its roster, dealt Marriotts Ridge its only loss last season but couldn’t keep up with the faster pace down the stretch this time. Junior Samantha Brookhart led the Vikings with three goals.

“First half we were definitely playing the game that we were hoping to,” Coach Trish Sullivan said, “and the second half we just didn’t have it. That happens sometimes.”