Indians to face Riders for HAC title after clinching South

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: IR freshman forward Isabella Keith sends a shot across the field against Sussex Central on May 12.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: IR freshman forward Isabella Keith sends a shot across the field against Sussex Central on May 12.One check mark down. Two more to go.

Head coach Steve Kilby and the Indian River High School girls’ soccer team always have three items on their “short list” at the beginning of the season. First, they want the division. Then, they want the conference. And, finally, they want the state championship.

While it’s been a busy week, that first box got checked last Tuesday, May 10, when they earned their third straight Henlopen South crown by taking down Woodbridge, 6-0.

The then-10-2-1 Blue Raiders had seen their own title hopes toppled after falling to Delmar in their previous game, but the Indians still needed to the win to mathematically clinch the division.

They’d keep things rolling on Thursday, May 12, that time by rolling over district rival Sussex Central, 9-0.

Senior forward Madi Mercer was the first to strike in that game, finding the net in just the third minute, on a ball from junior defender Maggie Ford.

Two more scores, all within the first 15-minutes of play — one from senior forward Emma-Lee Merrick, assisted by sophomore defender Paige Troublefield, and the other from Ford herself, on an assist from freshman Skyler McClure — made it 3-0.

“Skyler had the ball outside on the wide and she played it in just behind the defense, and I was able to come up on it,” Ford said, breaking down her first goal on the season. “Then it was one-on-one with the goalie, and I knocked it in.”

After establishing the quick and comfortable lead, Kilby decided to call off the dogs early on.

“It was 3-0 after 15 minutes, so we started subbing early,” he explained. “We’ve got 13 or 14 girls that kind of rotate through the starting lineup.

“It’s a game where you’re trying to manage players’ time and get the kids some rest and get other kids opportunities.”

Three goals in a row from junior forward Maddie Hogsten in the second half made it 6-0, with senior forward Brooke Beam finding the net on a corner kick, and a score by senior Kayla McCarra on an assist from freshman Isabella Keith ending the game.

“At that point, that was our main goal, was to just possess,” said senior Maria Mateo-Matias of the second-half strategy. “It was a really good game. The girls on the other team tried really hard, but we just kept possessing.”

“This was more of a fun game to me,” added McCarra. “Passing and possessing is what I wanted to work on, so I felt like I did that.”

The girls capped a 7-0 division record with an 8-0 victory against Laurel on Monday, May 16, with their final regular-season game against Ursuline Academy still left to play on Wednesday, May 18, (after Coastal Point press time).

After that, however, they were ready to start checking a few more items off their list, and for their rematch against the Riders.

“Everybody’s attitude is absolutely the three objectives that we set out,” said Kilby. “We’ve got the division. We’ll go for the conference on Friday, and we’ll see how that shakes out. And then we’ll wait for the tournament seedings, probably sometime this week.”

The Henlopen Conference game against Caesar Rodney is scheduled for Friday, May 20, at Milford High School and kicks off at 6 p.m.

Game stats:

Goals: IR — M. Hogsten (3), B. Beam (1), M. Ford (1), K. McCarra (1), M. Mercer (1), E. Merrick (1)
Assists: IR — B. Beam (1), E. Engel (1), M. Ford (1), I. Keith (1), S. McClure (1), P. Troublefield (1)
Saves: SC — A. Barrow (8), IR — F. McCray (1)

Regular season stats:

Goals: B. Beam (27), M. Hogsten (24), M. Mercer (5), E. Engel (4), S. McClure (4), S. Whelen (4), A. Check-Guzman (3), E. Merrick (3), N. Herrera (2), K. McCarra (2), D. Baine (1), G. Engel (1), M. Ford (1), M. Gorey (1), I. Keith (1), M. Mateo-Matias (1)
Assists: B. Beam (17), M. Hogsten (6), Check-Guzman (4), M. Mercer (4), S. Whelen (4), I. Keith (3), E. Merrick (3), P. Troublefield (3), E. Engel (2), G. Engel (2), M. Ford (2), O. Garvey (1), N. Herrera (1), J. Hogsten (1), S. McClure (1)
Saves: F. McCray (35), S. Whelen (1)