It was a Murphy’s Law kind of night for the Indian River High School soccer team, to say the least.
In facing No. 12 St Georges in the DIAA semi-finals on Wednesday, Nov. 16, everything that could go wrong seemed to do so during the game’s first 90-plus minutes.
The whistle blew before senior midfielder Edgardo Velasquez could set up a corner kick opportunity at the end of regulation. Senior forward Johan Cordoba hit the far post in the first OT. Senior midfielder Mac Smith missed a shot wide left; junior forward Oscar Cruz, too.
They couldn’t get a call. They couldn’t turn a chance. They couldn’t catch a break.
Until they did.
It was late in the game’s second overtime period when the Indians’ luck finally took a turn and senior forward Mikie Mochiam sent a high, winding shot from midfield down to Cordoba that he caught between two blue jerseys and redirected past the keeper for the win.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” said Cordoba of the game-winner. “I took a bad touch, but I think I compensated for it — just got the right volley of it, and it went in.”
“I thought we had it won three times in the first 10 minutes of overtime and, you know, it just didn’t happen,” said IR head coach Steve Kilby. “Going into the overtime, especially, we kind of told them, ‘It’s either get this done or be done.’ They took it to heart, and we really pinned them in.”
The semi-final victory kept the Indians alive in the tournament and earned them a bid to the upcoming DIAA state championship game, but the way it came about was somewhat unexpected for the tournament’s No. 1-seeded team.
With regulation winding down and the stalemate ongoing, they called upon Smith — who had been resting after an injury in the quarter-final game against Caravel and was not yet back to full health — to provide an offensive spark.
“It was 0-0 going into overtime. No one really thought that we’d be in that position,” Smith said. “I was just trying to go in and make a difference. I couldn’t do much. It kind of hurt, but we’ve got some good chances. We probably should have scored one in the first overtime, but we got the result, and we gotta get ready for Saturday.”
“It’s the tournament — you’re going to get everybody’s best effort,” said Kilby. “St. Georges had a great run. They knocked off two highly-seeded teams to get to us tonight.”
The Seahawks had their chances, too, and plenty of them. But the IR defense kept them off the board behind seven saves from senior goalkeeper Kevin Calles and the senior-led back four of Patrick Mochiam, Max Stong, Arturo Salas and Andrew White.
“They were quick on the ball, but we just tried to contain and keep our numbers and then play out through our midfield and counter,” said White. “Up top, it was nice, because they were holding the ball in — we were just playing to them.”
After the game, and an impassioned speech from senior Josh Timmons, Kilby addressed his squad to tell them that, while they should be proud of themselves, they shouldn’t be satisfied — yet.
There’s still one game left to go — the one game they’ve been waiting for all season.
“For this group this year, there’s only one true objective,” Kilby said. “They’ve maintained their focus and they’ve got the opportunity before them.”
“It’s been the mindset all year,” added Andrew White of the title game. “We’ve been looking forward to this game.”
The wait will be over this Saturday, when the Indians take on No. 3 Tower Hill for a chance at a second straight DIAA state championship, and a third state title for both Kilby and the senior class.
The game will get under way at 5 p.m. at Smyrna High School on Saturday, Nov. 19, with the team bus taking off from Dagsboro at 2:30 p.m.
“This is what we’ve been working for,” said Cordoba.
Goals: IR — J. Cordoba (1)
Assists: IR — Mikie Mochiam (1)
Saves: IR — K. Calles (7), St. Georges - J. Larry (12)