Headed into their opening matchup against highly touted Sussex Tech last season, the Indian River High School field hockey team was very much the underdog. No one expected them to win, especially not 1-0 off a Lexi Haden overtime goal.
This year, however, the bar had been raised, and winning had almost become the expectation. An expectation that the Indians knew they had to meet.
“The bar had already been set. We knew we had to take it to the next step,” said IR head coach Jodi Stone, after her squad’s 2-1 victory over the Ravens on Tuesday. “They were ready.”
“It was an expectation this year, so we were a lot more nervous,” added senior forward Madi McGee. “It was a good nervous.”
McGee netted both goals for the Indians in the matchup, her first score breaking the stalemate with just over 11 minutes to go in the first half.
After freshman midfielder Rylie Cordrey inserted a ball to Lexi Haden, Haden managed a straight shot on goal that bounced off the Tech keeper, the rebound of which McGee collected and buried, to make it 1-0.
“Scoring first, I think, really helped set the tone,” said Stone. “It kind of relaxed them a little bit, and then they started playing their game.”
McGee’s next goal came unassisted and in a blur inside the circle, with just over six minutes to go in the half.
“It was just everywhere in the circle,” explained Haden. “It was going from stick to stick, and then Madi got wide open somehow.”
But despite heading into the break with a two-goal lead, the game was far from over, and the Ravens weren’t going down without a fight.
After some halftime adjustments, Tech finally got on the board on a goal from senior Bridget Johnson, trimming the IR lead to 2-1 with still more than 20 minutes and change left on the clock.
“They changed up their lineup a little bit, and they were really putting the pressure on us, second half,” Stone said.
The Ravens would get several chances to tie it before the final whistle, setting up four corner opportunities in the game’s final minutes that were all shut down by the IR defense, led by senior Maggie Ford, junior Sammi Whelen and junior goalkeeper Mya Parks, who finished the day with six saves.
“Mya was killing it,” said McGee of Parks’ clutch end-of-the-game stops.
“We trust our defense a lot,” added Haden. “We can just rely on them.”
The win put the Indians at 1-0 on the season, headed into their first division matchup at home against Laurel on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m.
Last season, they romped over the Bulldogs 8-0 behind four goals from McGee.
They’ll head to Woodbridge after that, for another South contest, on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 2 p.m.
For right now, however, they’re enjoying the rivalry win, and the start to a new season, with new expectations.
“This is just a really great way to start a season. This is what we needed to start our season off,” said Stone. “They’ve worked really hard, and they deserve it. This group is focused, they’re ready to go. They work really well together.”
Goals: IR: M. McGee (2), Tech: B. Johnson (1)
Assists: IR. L. Haden (1)
Saves: IR: M. Parks (6), Tech: M. Mitchell (3), G. Lee (1)