Marriotts Ridge’s Nicole Grote, shown here celebrating a goal in a win over Mount Hebron in April, helped lead the Mustangs past South River in the District V title game. (Doug Kapustin/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Marriotts Ridge girls’ lacrosse Coach Natalie Gaieski points to last year’s regular season loss to rival Mount Hebron as the turning point on the team’s march to its first Maryland 3A/2A title. But the Mustangs, dominant in winning the Howard County title this spring, hadn’t experienced much adversity before Tuesday’s District V title game.

With its perfect season seriously threatened for the first time, third-ranked Marriotts Ridge rose to the challenge with a 16-12 win over No. 4 South River in Edgewater. Sophomore Taylor Hensh scored five goals and senior Nicole Grote added three goals and two assists to help the Mustangs beat the Seahawks in a final tune-up before state tournament play begins.

“I’m excited because we are going to learn from it,” Gaieski said. “I can’t wait to watch the film and break it down with them.”

Marriotts Ridge (15-0) had outscored its opponents, 252-41, in its first 14 games of the season with 11 double-digit wins. The Mustangs never trailed by more than a goal on Tuesday, but the Anne Arundel County champs matched their speed and skill in a way no team has this season.

South River — which earned the top seed in the 4A/3A East region tournament — face-guarded junior Zoe Stukenberg, trying to disrupt Marriotts Ridge’s offense by limiting its most dynamic player. On the other end of the field, the Seahawks (12-3) showcased an organized and efficient attack, taking a 10-9 lead early in the second half.

South River’s Ben Chisolm (right), shown in last year’s state final, had five goals against Glenelg in the District V title game. (Jonathan Newton/WASHINGTON POST)

But the experienced Mustangs thrived under the pressure, pulling away from there with a run of seven unanswered goals. Most importantly, Gaieski said her players came away with knowledge that should help them in their repeat title bid, which kicks off Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s Wilde Lake-Long Reach matchup.

“You want kids that will fight back in those situations and continue to try and believe they can win,” Gaieski said. “We had that attitude [Tuesday], but we definitely have a couple things we’ll have to tweak to be successful” in the tournament.

South River boys pull away from Glenelg

Behind a second-half offensive flurry, the sixth-ranked South River boys’ lacrosse team continued its unbeaten run with a 14-9 win over then-No. 10 Glenelg in Tuesday’s nightcap.

The Howard County champion Gladiators led 5-4 at halftime before the Seahawks exploded for eight straight goals, including six in the third quarter, to pull away. Junior Ben Chisolm (Maryland) had five goals and senior Jon Carr (UMBC) chipped in four more to lead the Anne Arundel County champs.

“We didn’t want to go in [to the tournament] with a loss,” Coach Paul Noone said. “That stuff can be contagious is the way we look at it. We’re happy right now to stay on this same path we’ve been on.”

South River (15-0) heads into the Maryland 4A/3A tournament as the East region’s top seed with a perfect record for the second time in four years. The Seahawks, who fell to Linganore in last year’s 4A/3A final, capped the 2009 season with a state title.

Noone credited his team’s defense for jumpstarting its transition attack on Tuesday. The second-half spark fueled the fast-paced spurt that swung the momentum back to the home team. The unit also killed off three Glenelg extra-man opportunities without allowing a goal in the third-quarter alone.

“We were just running like crazy,” Noone said. “That’s what we like to do. It works for us, so we’ll keep running.”

Senior Nick Wynne paced Glenelg (13-2) with five goals.