The Indian River High School boys’ lacrosse team sent their 13 seniors out with a 21-9 Senior Night win over Delmar on Wednesday, May 17, finishing the season with a 10-5 record.
While they’d fall short of the program’s first Henlopen South division title when a committee met the following day to determine the tie-breaker between them and Milford (both teams finished 5-1 in the division), the Class of 2017 still goes out having made IR lacrosse history with the team’s highest-ever regular-season win total.
“To go out with a nice win against a tough opponent like Delmar, this is what you want for this senior group to have in their last game on their home field,” said IR assistant coach Dave Spencer. “This is just a hard working group of guys. They’re brothers on the field and off the field — just a terrific group of kids to be able to coach.”
With their South division and playoff fate out of their control, the Indians set out to leave their mark in the school’s record books one way or another when they took the field to face Delmar on May 17.
After falling behind 1-0 off the opening draw, senior midfielder Sam Nitz would generate a fast-break opportunity off the next face-off, getting the ball down to senior attackman Gianni Gottschalk, who finished the chance, to tie things up at 1-1.
IR senior midfielder George “G-Mart” Martin nearly lost his helmet fighting off a double-team on the next possession, going on to break through the pack with a still-loose lid and find the net on a behind-the-back shot that made it 2-1.
Back-to-back goals from junior attackman Cole “The Machete” Josetti put the Indians up 4-1, just before senior defender Griffin McCormick kept the Wildcats off the board with a save while senior goalkeeper Hayden McWilliams was out of the cage after a broken-up clear. A goal from senior midfielder Max Stong pushed the lead to 5-1 as the Indians rolled to an 8-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We just got vicious as a team,” said White of the turnaround. “We’ve had a lot of slow starts this season, and Coach has been preaching to not let that happen again, so I think we just decided we needed to get going if we wanted to keep playing this season.”
White would go on to find the net in the second quarter, creating another score with a “hockey assist” fast-break that found its way to junior attackman Wyatt Kovatch, Josetti and then eventually Gottschalk for the goal.
After taking a 15-4 lead into the break, however, the Wildcats would rally out of the second-half gate behind eighth-grade phenom Dante Trader with three unanswered goals.
“We wanted to throw a lot of bodies at him,” said Spencer of trying to contain Trader. “Last game, he was able to shake free little bit and set the tone for them. We had to dig ourselves out after that.”
“I was really impressed with him. I was trying not to overcommit,” said senior LSM Joey Ciriello of the matchup. “I just kept my body positioned, stick on his gloves, and kept my shoulders with him when he was rolling.”
The Indians would close the door on a potential Delmar comeback when Martin scored on a diving shot around the crease, and White found Stong on the next possession to put them up 17-7.
The final goal of the game would come from Ciriello — who, fittingly, had also scored the final goal of last year’s Senior Night win over Sussex Central — after senior midfielder Danny de Oliveira won the face-off.
“I was playing off on the wing and saw Danny draw it out, no one around it, saw an open lane and just let it rip,” said Ciriello of the goal that bounced through the legs of the Delmar keeper. “I saw the net jump and my heart just lit up — it was probably the best moment I’ve had in lacrosse.”
With the offense in check, the IR defense would seal the win behind 16 saves from McWilliams, as the Indians finished the season 10-5, still hopeful that the division tie-breaker would go their way.
While they’d eventually find out they’d fall short of their division title and playoff hopes, this year’s senior class still leaves a legacy for teams to come.
They’ll graduate with a 32-27 overall record over the past four seasons — 19-11 as upperclassmen the last two seasons — and with both Martin and Nitz headed to continue their careers in the NCAA.
Martin set the program records for career points (308), career goals (180) and career assists (128), and McWilliams set the program record for career saves since getting the start as a freshman.
“We talked about making history and we did. That’s something for a five year program,” said head coach Jim Dietsch. “It’s a special group — not only on the lacrosse field, but academically. Hayden is No. 1 in his class, George and Jared [Arlett] are going to the Naval Academy, three of these guys are going to engineering school — they’re just quality kids. Kids like this would make you proud to say, ‘That’s my son.’”
“They’re my brothers at this point,” added Ciriello of the senior class. “I’ve been playing with most of them for four years, and the guys who came in little later got pulled into the family real quick. I’m gonna miss all of them next year.”