There wasn’t supposed to be practice last Friday, the Friday before Labor Day weekend, for the Indian River High School field hockey team.
But there was.
After a successful pre-season campaign, the senior captains didn’t want to go four days without practicing, especially with Tuesday’s season-opener at Sussex Tech just a week away. So, they called one.
That’s the attitude that the team has this year.
“There’s so much more passion on the field,” said senior Maggie Ford, an All-Conference selection at defense as a junior last season. “Just at the scrimmages I can tell we’ve been working hard each game.”
“This is definitely the most confident that we’ve ever been,” added senior forward Madi McGee.
Ford and McGee are two of four seniors leading the way this year, along with senior forward Erin Haden and senior forward and 2015 All-Conference selection Lexi Haden.
The four seniors were also the four members of head coach Jodi Stone’s first freshman class, after Stone took over the program four years ago. Over those four years, she’s seen the difference, too.
“We had an awesome pre-season. They came ready, willing to work, and we threw some new challenges at them,” Stone said. “All of our hard work and dedication is really surfacing. We’re moving into that next phase.”
Joining Stone to help continue to get the Indians to that next phase will again be assistant coach Anne McBride, but this year they’ll be joined by newcomers Sarah Cvach and Molly Chamberlin.
Cvach recently graduated after playing hockey at Delaware Valley, and Chamberlin joins the squad after coaching Millsboro Middle School to a 10-1 season last year and as a former standout for the Indians herself.
“Youth, enthusiasm and knowledge of the game of hockey,” Stone said of what Cvach and Chamberlin bring the squad.
“I’m here for the long haul,” added Chamberlin. “I had a great group of girls at Millsboro, but I wanted to get back to coaching on the Indian River side, because this is where I went to school, and that makes a big difference for me. We had a good program, and it hurt to see it go under for a couple years.”
On the field, the Indians graduated players from several key positions, including goalkeepers Madison Thune and Emma Engel, All-Conference defenders Callie McDowell and Paiton Murray, Sarag King from the midfield, and forwards Madison Mercer, Emiley Shuey and Emma-Lee Merrick.
Stepping up to fill those roles will be an array of both upper- and underclassmen.
On defense, Ford will again be joined by junior Sammi Whelen, who enters her third year as a starter. Rounding out the line will be junior Delaney Brannon, sophomore Mackenzie Gorey and freshman Morgan Bomhardt, along with junior Mya Parks suiting up in the cage.
Returning to help lead the midfield will be junior Kaleigh Cordrey, who will team up with some newcomers, including her younger sister, freshman Rylie Cordrey, freshman Kaylee Hall and freshman Avery Congleton, who was a key contributor at MMS last season.
“We have some awesome freshmen this year. They’re an awesome group,” said Lexi Haden. “We all have a passion for field hockey.”
Haden led the scoring charge in 2015, with seven goals and two assists on the season, along with McGee, who notched seven goals as well. They’ll help make up the front line, in addition to Erin Haden, with some other players, including sophomore Keirstyn Hassler, also expected to get into the mix.
While the team’s talent, enthusiasm and passion for the game throughout the roster is apparent, they’re ready to prove it on the field, too.
And just as they showed in calling their Labor Day Friday practice, they know that the way to pull that off is by doing the work.
“We’re way more confident than we’ve ever been, but we don’t want to go into games too confident,” Lexi Haden explained. “We want to make sure that everyone knows we have to work hard every game.”
“We’ve definitely been working more as a team than we ever have before,” added Erin Haden. “We know this year that we’ve been working hard, and that’s what we have to continue to do.”
The Indians will put that hard work to the test on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at Sussex Tech at 4 p.m. Last season, they took down the Ravens 1-0 on a Lexi Haden overtime goal.