After the Indian River High School field hockey team notched zero wins in 2011, it seemed they could only go up… and up they’ve gone.
The girls are making strong progress, netting them an improved record of one win and five losses, and demonstrating the work they’re putting in during practice.
“We’re not really looking at the loss, we’re looking at the improvements made,” said Katie Holloway, IR head coach. “If you compare our scores from last year to this year, there have been large, large gains made in terms of playing, positioning, how we attack the ball, how we recover, that sort of thing.”
IR fell by narrow margins to Red Lion (3-0), Smyrna (1-0) and Caesar Rodney (2-0), giving up at least eight fewer goals than last year and preventing landslide losses.
Sarah Buchler and Jodie Powell scored the goals that helped Indian River beat Sussex Central (2-0) in the team’s first win since 2010.
Indian River lost to Dover High School, (2-1) at home Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Dover grabbed two points in the first half, setting IR on attack mode. With just 46 seconds left, IR made their mark. The ball slipped by an IR player who was open at Dover’s goal, but she recovered, reached and spun it around to Buchler, who finally knocked it in for a goal.
“Offense usually is [fast]. You have to be on your toes the whole time, very much on your game, very much aware of where the ball is,” said Holloway. “And if somebody misses it, you have to be ready to get the next shot, and a lot of what we do is focusing on, ‘OK — where’s it coming from, who’s ready for it, what positions are we in to best shoot for the goal?’”
With 30 seconds left to tie the game, IR briefly took control of the ball again but were pushed back into their defensive territory when the final whistle blew.
Though they only scored one point on four attempts, IR played a strong defense. Keepers Sarah Hickman and Amy Mitchell made a combined 12 saves.
Field hockey games are usually filled with fouls and restarts, but this year’s IR team doesn’t waste time or lose energy. The clock keeps moving, so players don’t pause on the foul. They glance up, confirm the foul and charge forward with possession.
“They actually picked up on that on their own,” said Holloway. It affects the “speed of the game, keeps the game going.”
IR played four penalty corners, while Dover had eight.
“Overall, they’re picking up more and more skills, and they’re starting to use to skills collectively as a team,” said Holloway.
With three new assistant coaches this season, IR has more time to specialize and train in offense or defense.
“We’ve seen the improvements, and that’s a result of having the extra help,” Holloway said.
The next goal is to increase aggression and conditioning.
“You gotta have the heart. You have to want it,” said Holloway. “It’s that’s fierce competitiveness that that makes athletes, that really drives a team.
The Indians have home field advantage for the next several games, facing Seaford on Thursday, Sept. 27, Milford on Tuesday, Oct. 2, and the yet-undefeated Caravel Academy on Wednesday, Oct. 3.