Just think, “Elephants are purple.”
That’s the advice that Indian River High School Athletic Director and former Lynchburg College goalkeeper Todd Fuhrmann gave IR junior goalkeeper Fabrea McCray on trying to move past a score and get back in the game.
So, when Sussex Tech senior defender Ashley Nichols tied the game against IR on Tuesday, April 11, in the 55th minute on a long-looming free-kick shot off the outstretched fingertips of McCray, that’s exactly what she did to try to keep the Indians in it.
“It was good goal. I was kind of upset, because I train for those, but I knew that in order to win the game I couldn’t be in my own mind,” said McCray. “Right then and there, I knew that I didn’t have time to beat myself up, because my team needed me.”
The strategy seems to pan out as McCray went on to notch key saves with the 1-1 tied game approaching stoppage time, eventually paving the way for IR senior forward Maddie Hogsten to take advantage of a one-on-one matchup while racing down the sideline and netting the score that put the Indians up 2-1 in the 78th minute for the eventual win against their conference rival.
“We were looking for a matchup,” said Hogsten of what would be the 91st goal of her high school career, putting her just nine scores off from the 100 mark. “The goalie came out, and I saw my opening.”
“We moved Maddie back out of the midfield, up top, hoping to get a chance to play past their center back, and it worked out for us, fortunately,” added IR head coach Steve Kilby of the late-game strategy.
As fate would have it, Sussex Tech transfer and current IR junior forward Zena Lowman would play a critical part in both of the Indians goals in the matchup against her former team — not only tallying the assist to Hogsten after receiving a ball from senior midfielder Maggie Ford, but also netting the game’s first score.
It was in the 39th minute of the first half when Lowman took a ball on a fast break and squared up against former teammate Kira Short, going stride for stride and burying a shot top shelf from just outside the box to break the stalemate and put the Indians up 1-0.
“It felt pretty great,” said Lowman of the first installment of what would end up being the “Z-factor” on the day. “At first, I didn’t think I was going to get by. I thought Kira was going to break it up before I had a chance. But it felt really good when it went in.”
Adding Lowman to the equation just added some further fuel to the fire of what has historically been an intense soccer rivalry between the schools, showing through the intense physicality up until the final whistle.
“Either of these schools could be having a down season, and it doesn’t matter when they face off — it’s going to be a hard-fought game,” said Kilby, who has also seen the rivalry on the boys’ side. “The bottom line is we knew it was going to be a tough game, that it would be physical. We created a lot of chances, and we got the result we wanted.”
“They definitely were aggressive,” added Lowman. “They definitely didn’t give up, either.”
Defensively, the Purple Elephant Parade was led by McCray, who tallied a season-high 10 saves in the matchup.
“I believed in them, and we believed in each other,” said McCray. “The whole game, I just had confidence in my defense.”
Tech sophomore keeper Valencia Whealton also came out with a season-high in saves on the day for the Ravens, finishing with 13.
While the Ravens fell to 2-3-1 overall on the season, still yet to play a Henlopen North division game, the Indians improved to 5-1 overall on the season and 2-0 in the Henlopen South, headed into their Thursday, April 13, matchup at Seaford (after Coastal Point press time).
Tech was set to take on Cape Henlopen on Thursday, looking to get back on track in their first division matchup, before both teams head into spring break.