After their most successful season in over a decade, the bar for third-year head coach Jodi Stone and the Indian River High School field hockey team has officially been raised. This year, they’re aiming to score more goals. This year, they’re aiming to break the .500 mark. This year, they’re aiming for a Henlopen South title.
And after posting a 5-9-1 record in 2014, with three of those losses decided by two goals or less, and returning the majority of their 2014 roster, for the first time in more than a decade, the Indians could very well hit their target.
“We feel really good about this year,” said senior defender Callie McDowell of the expectations. “Last year, we had four or five games where we lost by one, could have tied, or did tie. We’re looking to put those in the win column this year. Every year, we just keep getting better.”
“We’re raising the bar,” added Stone. “We’re definitely there. We turned the corner last year.”
Much of the reason for last year’s turn-around could be attributed to the senior leadership from midfielders Sarah Buchler and Maggie Allison; however, while this year’s squad will certainly miss their contributions, Stone said that this year’s senior class is stepping up.
“These girls that have now have really stepped up to the plate. They’re picking up where we left off last year, as far as leadership,” she explained. “It’s a great bunch. They work really well together.”
Not only do the seniors work well together, but they’ve been doing so since the seventh grade, when Stone began coaching most of them at Selbyville Middle School after resuming her coaching career, eventually making the move to IRHS and becoming reacquainted with the class as sophomores in 2013.
“All of us have been working together since middle school. We all know how we play on the field together,” explained senior defender Paiton Murray. “Basically, our whole senior class started as freshmen on the varsity team, so this should be our year.”
Murray and McDowell will lead the defense for the seniors, along with returning senior goalkeepers Madison Thune and Emma Engel. Key offensive returners for the senior class include midfielder Emma-Lee Merrick, who led the scoring in 2014 with four goals and two assists; midfielder Emily Shuey (two goals, two assists in 2014); and midfielder Sarah King (two goals, one assist in 2014). Midfielder Madi Mercer is also expected to make some noise on offense after missing out on her junior campaign.
In addition to some experienced seniors, the Indians will also see some key returners in from junior class. On defense, Paige Troublefield and Maggie Ford will join Murray and McDowell, and on offense, midfielder Madi McGee (two goals, three assists in 2014), and Lexi Haden (two goals, one assist in 2014) are expected to put up numbers again in 2015. Junior midfielder Makenzie Collins should also make an impact on offense.
“Not only is our senior class strong, but our junior class is, as well,” Stone noted.
Joining the upperclass will be a strong crop of both new coming and returning freshmen and sophomores, and with the added numbers and strong leadership, Stone expects the scoring attack to amp up, as well.
“We’re moving to more of an attack mode. We’re looking for big things from our offense. We’ve been building on that for three years,” she said. “This group is a dynamic group. I think they’re well on their way.”
While every position is still up for grabs, the Indians will get a better look into what the lineup could look like in 2015 when they head up to Polytech to face the Panthers for a pre-season scrimmage play day on Saturday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. They’ll take on Stephen Decatur in another pre-season road matchup on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 4 p.m., before finally getting the regular season under way in a home matchup against Sussex Tech on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 4 p.m.