The bus starts here

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: The Indians may have taken caravans up to their pre-season scrimmages in Dover, but the bus to the state championship is keeping the engine running.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: The Indians may have taken caravans up to their pre-season scrimmages in Dover, but the bus to the state championship is keeping the engine running.Eight months and 28 days. That’s how long the Indian River High School girls’ soccer team had to wait to get back on the field after their 3-1 loss to Caravel in the DIAA State Championship last June.

And, despite making school history by even getting to that game, they had been counting down every last day — ready for another shot at the crown.

“We just don’t want to feel how we did that last game,” said senior forward Brooke Beam. “We just want to have a different feeling this year. I think we’re all trying to work hard, and we’re definitely setting the bar higher this year than we have ever before.”

“I think the fire has grown,” added junior defender Maggie Ford. “I think we want it more this year.”

While the Indians may be raising the bar and looking for redemption, they’ll benefit in doing so from returning nine starters, 10 All-Conference selections and three All-State selections.

Two of those All-State selections are Beam and junior forward Maddie Hogsten, back to lead the scoring charge. A First XI selection, Beam is coming off a 32-goal, 11-assist season in 2015, putting her just 21 shy of 100 career scores. Hogsten is also poised for 100 career goals after putting up 30 goals and 15 assists during her sophomore campaign, which earned her First-Team All-State honors.

Though not many teams have been able to contain either of the Indians’ go-to scoring weapons yet, according to head coach Steve Kilby, there are a few other players he thinks could step up, should the situation arise. The same players could, at the same time, help fill the void left by graduated First Team All-State midfielder and captain Sarah Buchler.

“I’m really thinking that, if people focus too much on Maddie Hogsten and Brooke Beam, that Madi Mercer is gonna be somebody that we’re gonna see scoring goals for us,” Kilby said of the senior forward and 2015 Honorable Mention All-Conference selection.

“Sarah’s a huge loss. As good as she was as player, her leadership was tremendous — every girl respected her. My concern for this group is to see if they can move on and be cohesive without her leadership and who’s really gonna step in and fill that void.”

In the back four, the Indians will also look to replace a senior leader in Second Team All-Conference selection Farris Hauck. However, they will return three starting defenders, includin: Ford, senior Davina Baine and sophomore Sammie Whelen, as well as a healthy Emma Engel for her senior campaign. Back between the pipes is sophomore goalkeeper Fabrea McCray.

“I believe her confidence has been growing since the first practice last year,” said Kilby of McCray — who posted 12 shutouts and earned First Team All-Conference honors in her first year ever playing the position. “She’s not had any game situations, but already her awareness and training is so much further along than it was last year, so we expect continued growth out of her.”

“I think she’s definitely more comfortable this year,” added Baine. “As a first year [player], it’s definitely gonna be different than your second year — especially when you’re a freshman and you’re starting.”

McCray and Whelen were the only two freshmen to make the team in 2015; however, the Indians could possibly see five make the cut this year.

No matter what the lineup looks like, for Kilby and his squad, every year the goal is the same for both the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at IR: first going for the division, then the conference and, finally, the state title.

“Three items are always on it,” he said of the checklist. “We know where we were. We know where we ended up. We know how close we were. So I think that’s a big plus for this group — they know that they’re capable. They know that we have a lot of great pieces to fill a lot of good roles for the team, and I think their outlook is positive.”

“We’re just excited overall as a team,” added senior captain Aline Check-Guzman, “just to play together.”

The girls got their chance to play together during scrimmages in Dover on Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12. They’ll take off on the real road to redemption when the regular season gets under way at home against Delmar on Thursday, March 24, at 6 p.m.