They had been waiting for exactly 365 days.
The date was May 10, 2016, when the Selbyville Middle School girls’ soccer team closed out their match against rival Millsboro Middle School with a 2-2 tie — the only game of their entire 2016 schedule to not result in a mark in the win column during their 9-0-1 undefeated season.
Last Wednesday, after a long-awaited full calendar year, the date was May 10 once again when Indians went into their 2017 matchup against the Golden Knights, at 9-0 yet again, determined to come out with a second-straight undefeated season for the first-time in program history — this time with a perfect 10-0.
“Every time we passed the school, I just thought, ‘I can’t wait to play here,’” said SMS eighth-grader and forward Sia Diakos, who had made her way by the school plenty of times throughout the last calendar year, during trips to the nearby restaurant owned by her parents. “It made us want to play better. We just wanted to play our hardest every game.”
The Indians were on their way early in that matchup on May 10, going up 1-0 on a quick score from eighth-grader and midfielder Jocelyn Aguilera.
Diakos was the next to strike, putting her squad up 2-0 before eighth-grader and midfielder Izzy Binko pushed the lead to 3-0 on a high-arching corner kick that found its way to the back of the net untouched.
Then, just before the half, seventh-grader and midfielder Chloe Beam made it 4-0 on shot from outside the box as the Indians continued to roll, eventually sealing the 8-0 victory on a goal by sixth-grader Carley Topper to finish the year 10-0 and leave their mark in the school’s history books.
“I’m just so proud of them,” said head coach Neal Barch, who, along with coach Betsy Bare, also led the SMS “B” team to an undefeated season this spring. “Most of these girls play club ball all year round to be able to get to this point. They play well together, and they back each other up. They put the time in, and they deserve it.”
“In the beginning, there was a lot of pressure, but then when we started winning games, we just wanted it even more,” said Diakos. “This year, we all just clicked. We all worked hard and tried our best to earn it.”
After putting up 36 goals during their 2016 undefeated run, this year’s eighth-grade-heavy offensive unit would go on to double that total in 2017, ending the season with 72 total goals and averaging more than seven per game.
Combining for 44 of those goals were Diakos and Binko, in their roles as the team’s two primary chance-finishers, collectively racking up 67 total points during their eighth-grade campaigns (34 and 33, respectively). Over the past three-seasons, the two have fine-tuned their on-field dynamic.
“I always play better when Izzy’s on the field with me,” said Diakos. “She somehow always gets the ball right where my foot is going to be.”
Another one of the team’s prime producers on offense was Aguilera, who netted two scores in the May 10 matchup against Millsboro to finish out her eighth-grade year with 14 total points (12G, 2A). Sixth grader Isabella Scurci also scored in the 8-0 win to finish the season with six points (3G, 3A).
“Most of us had already been playing together for a while, so we had a good dynamic,” added Binko of the offense. “But the new girls who came in really stepped up and found their role on the team.”
The team chemistry extended throughout the lineup during the squad’s historic run, up to the coaching staff, added to by the fact that Barch had once coached Bare during her days as a goalkeeper at Indian River High School.
“Coach Barch and Coach Bare knew where to put us on the field, and they pushed us to our limits every practice to help us win,” said Binko.
“Coach Bare was a big help to us,” added eighth-grader Tobi LoRusso, who tallied three goals and an assist as a defender this season after transferring from the Southern Delaware School of the Arts. “She really pushed us to give our best.”
While the team returned seventh-grade goalkeeper Hanna “H-less” Bird (also returning seventh-grade midfielder Hannah Bird — with an “H” — on offense), and third-year starting defender Ann Weaver from their 2016 squad, defense was still a question mark headed into the spring after losing three key defenders to graduation in 2016.
But with the addition of LoRusso, eighth-grader Raychel Ehlers returning to the lineup after a stint on the softball team and sixth-grader Kendall Cathell rounding out the new-look defensive unit, the team would go on to outscore opponents by a collective score of 72-3, posting eighth shutouts on the season and giving up two fewer goals than they did during their original undefeated run the previous spring.
“Some of them wanted to play another position, but they played where we needed them to, bit the bullet to help the team and never complained,” said Barch. “We had all the scoring power in the world, but we would have given up a lot more goals if not for the defense coming through for us like that.”
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t have Hanna,” said Diakos of the impact of the team’s second-year keeper.
After making SMS soccer history, the 10 eighth-graders fresh off their 10-win season are hoping to stay together at the next level, where they look forward to reuniting with some of their former teammates and trying to make a similar impact at Indian River High School.
“I think all of us are going to IR, so we’re going to be together for the next four years,” said Binko. “We’re all really excited about that, but we know we’re definitely going to have to work harder and make adjustments.”
“We’ve had some strong teams, but pound for pound, I don’t think we’ve ever had a team quite this good,” said Barch of the group leaving their legacy with an all-time record of 27-2-1. “I think they’ll be able to carry it on through high school.”
As for next year’s SMS Indians, they’ll again return the squad’s two Hanna(h) Birds — Hanna back between the pipes and Hannah in the midfield, after tallying two goals and two assists this past season. They’ll also return a core group of midfielders, including Beam (2G, 2A), Topper (2G, 2A), Scurci (3G, 3A) and Lia Diakos (1G, 2A).
Along with some reinforcements from this year’s undefeated “B” Team and an influx of up-and-coming talent making their way from the River Soccer Club, that group will be ready to carry on what has long been established as a proud soccer tradition at Selbyville Middle School, and ready to try to keep the program’s undefeated streak alive for a third-straight season by the time it’s all said and done, approximately 365 days from the last game that they could hardly wait to play.
“A lot of players from B, they’re stepping up. I’m excited that they went undefeated and excited for them to try and get it again,” said Diakos. “Hopefully, next year they’re ready, because the team needs them.”
“We’ve got some big shoes to fill. We’re losing three starting defenders, like we did last year, but we’ve got 11 or 12 girls that are ready to come in and step up,” said Barch. “You know they’re going to want to go for another one”
SMS season stats:
Goals: S. Diakos (26), I. Binko (18), J. Aguilera (12), T. LoRusso (3), I. Scurci (3), C. Beam (2), Hh. Bird (2), C. Topper (2), F. Cruz-Bonilla (1), L. Diakos (1), R. Ehlers (1), A. Johnson (1)
Assists: I. Binko (15), S. Diakos (8), I. Scurci (3), J. Aguilera (2), C. Beam (2), Hh. Bird (2), L. Diakos (2), S.Rojas (2), C. Topper (2), F. Cruz-Bonilla (1), T. LoRusso (1), J. Cruz (1), E. Ruley (1)