The Indian River High School girls’ soccer team’s seniors have definitely seen their fair share of firsts since their days starting out at the River Soccer Club.
As eighth-graders, they put together Selbyville Middle School’s first-ever undefeated season for girls’ soccer. When they got to the high school, they helped win the girls’ program’s first Henlopen Conference championship as sophomores. Then, as juniors, they made history again as the first girls’ soccer team to make it all the way to the state championship game.
While they’re hoping to add another first to the list and finally bring home the title as seniors, on Thursday, May 6, they took the field at Indian River High School soccer stadium like they have plenty of times before — only, this time, it would be their last.
“It’s bittersweet having our last game here ever for high school,” said senior Kayla McCarra after Senior Night ceremonies and the 9-0 win over Sussex Academy.
“There’s so many good memories that we’ve made on this field together,” said a teary-eyed Emma Engel, with a laugh. “I’ll cry if I start talking about it, so somebody else say something.”
After the 10 soon-to-be grads made the walk through the arches with their families in tow and announced their plans for the future, Engel and two-time girls’ soccer Manager of the Year Hope Pearce headlined the show with a national anthem duet.
“Hope and Emma Engel — two seniors singing together. They did a great job,” said head coach Steve Kilby of the special performance.
It was back to business after the opening whistle, however, with senior midfielder Brooke Beam sending a through ball to senior forward Madi Mercer, who finished the chance and put the Indians up 1-0 in just the seventh minute.
Mercer would finish with a team-high three goals on the night, one of which she scored by accident.
“On the last one, I was trying to get to Davina [Baine], but it went in,” Mercer explained.
“Madi came out of the game saying, ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I was trying to pass to Davina!” added Kilby, while trying out his best Madi Mercer impression.
Baine, a defensive captain, would finally find the net in the second half on a ball from senior midfielder Aline Check-Guzman, but the Indians did most of their scoring in the first — netting eight goals despite Kilby putting the usual restrictions on the usual suspects in the name of sportsmanship.
Junior forward Maddie Hogsten, Check-Guzman and freshman forward Skyler McClure all added goals to go along with Mercer’s hat trick and Baine’s first of the season, with Beam tacking on her school-record 101st and 102nd career scores, and senior Emma Lee-Merrick and freshman outside back Grace Engel each finished with an assist on the night.
Sophomore keeper Fabrea McCray didn’t see much action in the game, with a young Seahawks’ squad managing only one shot on the seasoned IR defense, but Sussex Academy sophomore Kierstin Blatzheim racked up five saves in the matchup.
The Indians improved to (10-1, 5-0) headed into their Tuesday, May 10, game at Woodbridge (10-2-1, 4-2), while the Seahawks dropped to (5-8, 0-5) in their first varsity season.
After the win, and all of the firsts that they’ve gone through together, the seniors reflected on their last time playing on their home field and on the coaching staff that’s helped them all along the way.
“At first, it kind of didn’t hit me, until I passed the arch, and then I was like ‘Yo — this is happening,’” said senior Maria “Mo’ Money” Matias. “Just giving a hug to Kilby and seeing all my teammates there — it was just special.”
“Kilby’s been one to push us all four years,” added Baine. “We’ve done a lot of growing up. Most of us, we all started together as a team, and then we’ve just grown over the past four years.”
Senior Sarah Wood expressed a similar sentiment after making the jump from J.V. for the game.
“Definitely growing up — I know a ton of the girls on varsity, travel — even though Kilby wasn’t necessarily our coach, he was still there as a significant figure, and he definitely saw a lot of us grow into who we are today.”
But while the girls reflected fondly on memories made, the night’s nostalgia wasn’t limited only to them.
“I remember Brooke [Beam] at River Soccer camp, 10 years ago, doing cartwheels and backflips and throwing the ball or kicking the ball. She would do a backflip, and we would serve her the ball when she was coming over, and she would bike it from the back flip,” Kilby recalled with a laugh. “It’s a fun night. This is a special group of girls.”
That group looks well on their way to adding another Henlopen South title and Henelopen Conference championship bid, as well as vying for the No. 1 seed in the DIAA playoffs at the end of the season. However, after the night’s festivities, they knew they still had a few items to check off their list first.
“We still have games. We still have a lot more to accomplish. We still have our three goals,” said Baine. “We’re still focused on what we wanted to do from the beginning of the season.”
Goals: IR — M. Mercer (3), B. Beam (2), D. Baine (1), A. Check-Guzman (1), M. Hogsten (1), S. McClure (1)
Assists: IR — B. Beam (2), A. Check-Guzman (1), G. Engel (1), M. Mercer (1), E. Merrick (1)
Saves: SA — K. Blatzheim (5)