It came down to chances.
Headed into their rescheduled match on Monday, May 2, the Indian River High School girls’ soccer team had a chance to net the program’s first-ever win against Caesar Rodney.
However, after losing sophomore midfielder Sammi Whelen for undisclosed reasons in the first half, and coming up short on late-game scoring chances, the Indians would miss out on a chance to make school history, as the Riders handed them a narrow 4-3 loss in a game that went down to the wire.
“It was a good game,” said head coach Steve Kilby. “We got three late chances. We just didn’t finish. If we’d have finished our chances in the first half, it would have been a different game, but we didn’t. The big thing for us, coming out of this, is we didn’t quit.”
“Every year against CR, I know it’s gonna be a tough game,” added junior defender Maggie Ford. “For the most part, I think we played really well. I think we’ve learned a lot from this game.”
The tension took form in physicality early on, tempered briefly when senior forward Brooke Beam snapped the stalemate with a score 11 minutes in, to put the Indians up 1-0.
With the Indians’ holding mid out of the lineup, however, it was a whole different ballgame, and the Riders would take advantage. Soon after Whelen’s exit, CR freshman Jessie Prilliman posted the equalizer on an assist from junior Lynsy Gruwell.
“Losing [Sammi] made a big difference in our midfield play,” Kilby said. “She’s got really good pace through the midfield to help us get forward. [Caesar Rodney] took over the midfield for a while.”
After tying it up just before the half, the Riders came out of the break to take their first lead of the game — this time on a shot from senior Aleya Cummings in the 47th minute.
The scoring would stall until late in the game, when IR junior forward Maddie Hogsten tied it back up at 2-2 with a goal in the 61st minute.
Then, Cummings would answer with back-to-back strikes coming just three minutes apart as the game approached stoppage time.
“I think there were a couple times where the defense got spread out a little too wide, so they were able to get in between the gaps,” Ford explained. “I think it was just a matter of our depth and not getting back far enough.”
Hogsten would get the Indians back in it with a goal in the 77th minute; however, missed opportunities late in the game kept them off the board as the Riders sealed the victory and handed IR their first loss of the season.
“We had a lot of chances,” said Beam. “We just need to learn how to finish those immediately when they come to us.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Fabrea McCray racked up a season-high nine saves in the matchup, while CR junior goalie Marianna Nuzzo posted seven stops on the night.
Though Kilby and his squad were disappointed by the loss, in all likelihood they’ll meet the Riders again before the end of the season, with both teams currently looking poised for a bid to the Henlopen Conference championship.
At 9-1 overall on the season, the Indians were 4-0 in the Henlopen South as of Coastal Point press time on Wednesday, May 4, with Sussex Academy (5-7, 0-4), Woodbridge (10-1-1, 4-1), and Laurel (2-6, 1-3) still left on the division docket.
The Riders led the Henlopen North at 10-1 overall and 4-0 in the division, with North matchups against Cape Henlopen (6-5, 2-2) and Polytech (3-8, 1-3) left to play.
Last season, CR got the best of the rivalry in the title game, with a 3-1 win. However, with Monday’s game in mind, the Indians are ready for redemption — and another chance to leave their mark in the school’s history books.
“I’m looking forward to playing them again, definitely. I think that we’ve seen what they can do, and we know now,” said Beam. “When we play them again, the score is going to be different.”
Goals: IR - M. Hogsten (2), B. Beam (1), CR - A. Cummings (3), J. Prillaman (1)
Assists:CR - L. Gruwell (2), K. Glasser (1)
Saves: IR - F. McCray (9), CR - M. Nuzzo (7)