Last year, Indian River High School’s field hockey team was embarrassed by Polytech High School in a 9-0 blowout. That wasn’t going to happen again under first-year head coach Jodi Stone, and this year’s squad proved that, battling the Lady Panthers until the end in a tough 4-2 loss.
“It’s a stepping stone,” Stone commented after the game. “It’s a big improvement. We’re narrowing the margin.”
Falling behind 3-0 early in the first half, the Lady Indians were able to finally get on the board with a shot from sophomore Emma-Lee Merrick, to make it 3-1.
The first-half scoring frenzy continued after Polytech quickly answered, making it 4-1, but senior Hannah Ruberti kept IR in it with a score of her own, to pull back within two.
The second half of play was a defensive standstill, despite Polytech’s ability to control the ball for nearly its entirety. Fighting through fatigue and temperatures reaching more than 90 degrees, the Indians showed their determination and tenacity in shutting out the Panthers for 25 straight minutes.
Senior goalkeeper Sarah Hickman came up big for IR all game, notching 16 saves in the matchup, including back-to-back saves on more than one occasion. Sophomore Callie McDowell also played well defensively and showed considerable toughness when she opted to stay in the game after getting shaken up in the second half.
After the game, Stone praised her squad for challenging the fourth-ranked team in the state and emphasized the importance of staying through the junior varsity game, which also faced Polytech immediately after the varsity game.
“Pick someone’s position that you play and encourage them,” she urged her players. “Let’s take that energy from the game and continue to use it.”
Positive energy and encouragement are things that Stone has harped on since Day 1, and despite their 0-3 start, there’s no question that this team is headed in the right direction.
The Lady Indians planned to continue building upon early-season lessons when they faced Lake Forest High School at home on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 4 p.m., after Coastal Point press time.