It was the game they had marked on their schedules all season.
Ever since getting edged by Millsboro on an Ansley Morrow goal just before the buzzer last fall, the Selbyville Middle School field hockey team had been ready for redemption in what’s become an anticipated annual rivalry.
But despite the wait, it didn’t take long for the Indians to cash in on that redemption when SMS eighth grade forward Kayler Townsend made her way through the Millsboro defense on a fast break and found herself one on one with the keeper just over two minutes after the opening whistle.
“Kayler’s one of the top scorers on our team. Once she’s gone and there’s no one around her — she’s gonna score,” said eighth grade defender and co-captain Savannah O’Shields of the goal that put the Indians up 1-0 early and on their way to an eventual 6-0 victory.
“I got a really good pass and I just took it up the field,” added Townsend of the first of her four goals on the day. “This is a game that we’ve been looking forward to our entire season — they’re our rivals. We always want to beat them.”
After the hot start, things started to cool down for the SMS offense when Millsboro threatened to even the score on multiple chances created by MMS eighth grade forward Macy Layfield.
“They had some opportunities. Macy Layfield is a tough player, she’s very talented,” said SMS head coach Matt Mayette. “At the beginning we had Morgan [McGee] shadow her because we knew she was going to be a threat.”
While key stops from eighth-grade goalkeeper Allison Clark and a veteran SMS defense kept the Golden Knights off the board, it would take a time out to get things going offensively again.
That’s when the Indians came out recharged and ready to strike, with Townsend racking up three more goals and seventh grader Emma Ruley adding a goal and assist on the day.
Even eighth-grade defender Taylor Lipkins got in on the scoring after getting a chance to play some offense and taking a clear all the way up the field through multiple MMS defenders to finish the chance despite getting tripped up in front of the cage.
“She usually plays defense so it was the first time she got to play midfield,” said Mayette. “She was really excited about it.”
“I think that we played as a team. We all passed the ball,” said eighth grade co-captain Jessica Rybicki of the team effort. “Millsboro is a really good team but we were just on our ‘A’ game today.”
Rybicki and eighth-grade midfielder Sia Diakos each had two assists for the Indians in the game, and Millsboro goalie Taylor Bullis racked up 12 saves for the Golden Knights, facing 16 total shots and 15 penalty corner opportunities.
The game capped the 2016 season for both teams, with the Golden Knights enduring somewhat of a rebuilding year coming off a 10-1 record in 2015, but graduating a large eighth grade class and ending up 2-8 this season.
The Indians finished 5-3-2 on the year, with the future of the program looking bright and the SMS “B” team going undefeated this season at 6-0-3. Next season, that team will fill the void left by eight SMS eighth graders ready to graduate.
For both programs however, the growing rivalry to end the season reflects the resurgence of a once fading sport in lower Sussex County, and no matter the score in recent years, always ends up as a win for Indian River School District field hockey.
“I think the program is definitely growing,” said O’Shields. “More people from different sports are starting to come over to it.”
“A lot of people are talking about it in school,” added Rybicki. “It’s definitely getting more popular and more competitive.”
While O’Shields and Rybicki will headline a talented eighth grade class ready to take their game to the next level, it’s safe to say the annual rivalry between the Golden Knights and the Indians won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
Goals: SMS - K. Townsend (4), T. Lipkins (1), E. Ruley (1)
Assists: SMS - S. Diakos (2), E. Ruley (1), J. Rybicki (2)
Saves: MMS - T. Bullis (12); SMS - A. Clark (4)