Marvin Ridge downs previously unbeaten Ashley in 4A girls soccer state championship

Marvin Ridge downs previously unbeaten Ashley in 4A girls soccer state championship

MATTHEWS, N.C. — It didn’t matter whether or not anyone outside of the Village of Marvin believed Marvin Ridge could win on Friday.

The Mavericks believed. And the Mavericks are state champions.

Marvin Ridge defeated previously undefeated Ashley for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A girls soccer state championship, hosted for the first time at the Mecklenburg County SportsPlex in Matthews, with a 2-1 score on Friday.

Ashley was the runner-up a year ago and came in with almost its entire starting lineup back, including a national U17 player and lots of Division I recruits.

Marvin Ridge and Ashley even met earlier in the season, at The Brittany showcase in Wilson, in which Ashley won 5-1.

While Ashley entered the playoffs with 18 wins, Marvin Ridge had half that.

But again, none of it mattered.

Not on Friday.

“We worked hard to keep our girls’ heads up, not to allow thoughts of negativity and fear and intimidation,” said Marvin Ridge coach Jenna Borrelli. “I think at their age, it’s such a mental game. You have to learn how to fight that battle between your ears, and if you can do that you can win on the field.”

In fact, Marvin Ridge (15-4-5) looked like a new team early and led 1-0 at halftime. The Mavericks took a lead just before the break as freshman Lucy Chin found the far side netting, one-timing a through ball from senior Camryn McKee in the 38th minute.

Ashley (23-1-2) closed the gap in the 48th minute with a corner kick from Kiley Peat that Savannah Manset got a body on to tie it 1-all.

But the game-winner came eight minutes later.

In the 56th minute, Isabella Zicchinolfi got a free kick from the right side and beat the Ashley wall and sent it right over the Screaming Eagles’ goalkeeper to go up 2-1.

“I started taking (free kicks) towards the end of the season and I made a few of them and it just so happened to be one of them I sunk,” Zicchinolfi said. “I think we outworked them. We were first to every single ball, we won every 50-50 air balls, everybody put 110 percent into this game.”

While the early season meeting had arguably made Ashley the heavy favorite, the familiarity it had created helped Marvin Ridge find a level of comfort on the big stage.

Frantic, Ashley pushed hard to tie the score again.

But in the same way that defender Jessica Mattson gave Ashley fits in the first half by winning possession, McKee did that for the Mavericks in the second half.

“We’ve known from the beginning that this is what we wanted, but to actually obtain it, once it was within our reach we wanted to go for it,” McKee said. “I just love my team and we just wanted it so we went after it.”

Marvin Ridge ties the first girls soccer champion, 1986 Page, for the fewest wins by a 4A champ. The Mavericks are also second to 2022 Cardinal Gibbons in losses by a 4A champ.

That shows how unlikely Marvin Ridge’s run was, but also how special the group became as they ended the season with a 13-1-1 mark over their last 15 games.

“Never give up,” Zicchinolfi said. “We started like 2-3-5 (the Mavs started 2-3-4) and now we’re winning a state championship.”

Ashley was hoping to join the ranks of 2013 Green Hope, 2015 Panther Creek, 2016 Providence, and 2023 Ardrey Kell as teams that went from runner-up to state champions one season later. The Screaming Eagles, the top seed in the East, were runner-up to Ardrey Kell by a 3-2 score in last year’s state title. Entering the game, Ashley had outscored its playoff opponents 24-2.

Marvin Ridge, the sixth seed in the West had outscored its last two playoff opponents 10-0, and caught fire once the postseason began, outscoring teams 25-3 entering the final.

Like Ashley, the Mavericks were making their second appearance in the girls soccer state championship. Marvin Ridge also won the 2010 3A title.

Before the game, each team honored one player as its NCHSAA sportsmanship award winner. For Ashley, it was Sarah Brannin. For Marvin Ridge, it was Molly Estes.