Headed into the half tied at 0-0 under the lights at Cape Henlopen, the Indian River High School field hockey team was facing another 30 minutes on the turf with no subs.
But after battling the highly-touted Vikings without giving up a score midway through the second half as well, the two programs’ mismatched numbers showed as the Indians began to wear down and Cape tallied five goals in the final 16 minutes, to pull off a 5-0 win.
“They’re a very well-orchestrated team. They have an awesome feeder program, they’re very well coached, and they have the depth, so they can just roll in fresh legs. We just didn’t have the depth,” explained IR head coach Jodi Stone.
To make matters worse, the Indians were without defensive leader Sammi Whelen for the matchup, who was out with a minor injury and expected to be back in the lineup soon.
“She reads the game really well,” said Stone of Whelen and her impact on the game. “She orchestrates the defense both verbally and physically, and she’s very verbal, in a positive way.”
Stepping up to fill the void was junior Kaleigh Cordrey, who moved over to Whelen’s role, and freshman Morgan Bomhardt, who rounded out the lineup and helped keep the Vikings off the board, along with sophomore defender Mackenzie Gorey and senior defender Maggie Ford, for the game’s first 44 minutes and change.
Junior keeper Mya Parks racked up double-digit saves in the matchup, finishing with 10 on the night, and including several from point-blank range and a first-half kick save on the back door that kept the game scoreless and the Indians in it.
The tides began to turn in the second half, when Cape freshman midfielder Cameron Smith found the net on an assist from junior midfielder Annie Judge, to break the stalemate.
Junior forward Lindsay Monigle pushed the lead to 2-0 with a score off an assist from sophomore midfielder Alia Marshall, just over four minutes later, and the scoring really opened when Marshall, Judge and sophomore midfielder Jacqueline Cannon tacked on scores after that.
Despite the disappointing finish for the Indians, Stone said she was encouraged by what she saw from her squad.
“They played well. It’s OK to be upset with a loss — that shows that they care,” she said. “We’re there, but we’re still having growing pains. We’re not just hanging with the big dogs — we’re competing with them this year.”
The loss was only their third on the season, as the Indians sit at 8-3 overall and 3-1 in the Henlopen South.
At Coastal Point press time on Wednesday, Oct. 19, that 8-3 record tied them for 10th overall in the state, with 8-3 Polytech, just a game shy of Cape, which stood at 7-2.
With four games left to go, they were looking well-primed to return to the playoff for the first time in more than a decade, contingent on a strong showing with matchup against St. Thomas More, Milford, Lake Forest and Dover.
The final stretch of the Indians’ regular season was set to begin on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m., hosting St. Thomas More (2-7).