With five different coaches in the past seven years, and not many more wins, the Indian River Field Hockey program hasn’t been taken seriously in more than a decade. They’ve been regarded as an easy win on the schedule by other teams throughout the league, have struggled to retain players and generate interest in the sport as a result of what had become a tradition of losing, and with no feeder program, showed no signs of turning things around.
However, after just two seasons at the helm, head coach Jodi Stone is establishing a new culture for Indian River Field Hockey. One with new expectations, new goals, and a whole new attitude. A culture where what has come to be known as “The Quiet Storm,” is starting to get louder.
“I called last year our foundation season,” said Stone of her first year with the team, where things began to change. “We really built a decent foundation last year and we really turned the corner.”
After a 1-14 season in 2013, the program started to see dividends in Stone’s second year, posting a 5-9-1 record and putting forth much more competitive efforts against some of the better teams in the state.
“They weren’t expecting the way we played,” said junior defender Callie McDowell of facing teams like Henlopen South Champion and field hockey powerhouse Delmar this past season. “They were pressured by us. They couldn’t take their starters out.”
The game would eventually end in a 2-0 loss for Indian River after a last-minute Delmar goal. However, compared to an 8-1 loss in 2013, it became a clear indicator of just how far the team had come.
Perhaps the highlight of the season came against another historically successful South opponent, when senior Sarah Buchler notched an overtime goal against Milford to give the Lady Indians a 2-1 victory.
“It was just an unbelievable moment,” recalled Stone of the game winning goal, when the entire team rushed the field.
For players like Buchler, the season was by far the most successful of their entire careers.
“This was her first successful season in seven years,” said Stone. “I think consistency with coaching has something to do with it, but I think a lot of it is the will and the desire of the players.”
“I think it was good to have consistency because we knew we were coming back to the same coach, same style, same workouts so it was easy for us to get back in it,” added Buchler, who led the team in scoring with eight goals this season. “It was great to have that guiding force that really wanted to make us better. We won for her.”
Aside from coaching consistency, and the players now believing in the cause and putting in the work, the program will eventually benefit from a field hockey feeder program that got its start this summer with the help of Stone and Millsboro Middle School coaches Pattiva Cathell and Molly Chamberlin.
While it’s too early to see the effects, progress has already been made at the middle school level which will eventually benefit Indian River, Sussex Central, and other area high schools.
“There was a lot more talent than I ever saw when I was in middle school. These girls looked like they wanted to play, looked like they wanted to get better,” said Buchler of the first field hockey camp for the district. “It’s definitely building the program.”
As for next season, the team only graduates Buchler and senior captain Maggie Allison, and while their leadership will certainly be missed, they’re confident in the precedent that they’ve helped establish.
“Last year at the end of the season everybody was upset that we lost most of our games,” said Allison. “Now they’re sick of losing. They’re finally really, really sick of losing.”
“Every class below us really wants to win,” added Buchler. “We’re not going to go from having a season of 5-9-1 back to 0-14 — there’s no way that’s going to happen again.”
Returning most the starting lineup in 2015, leaders like McDowell realize that expectations will be even higher for what will be Stone’s third season, as what had once been a quiet storm continues to garner more and more attention.
“She has a goal and it’s to turn this program around. We all know it and other coaches are starting to tell that that’s what she came to do,” said McDowell. “I think she’s really making a name for herself, not only the program, because all the coaches see what she’s doing and see that when she got here what started to happen.”
“To be able to maintain a constant level of wanting to compete, it says a lot about your character,” Stone said of the players that believe in what she’s doing. “We are on the right path to continue to bring Indian River field hockey back to the status of what it used to be. We believe in our players.”