Field Hockey at Indian River has had a slow start this year. They’ve had field concerns that postponed a match against Milford on Sept 13 and have since dropped two games in a row, to Tatnall and Cape Henlopen.
The Lady Indians were blanked by Tatnall 2-0 on Sept. 15 and couldn’t pick up the pieces in a 4-1 losing effort against Cape Henlopen on Sept. 20.
Head Coach Pativa McKean explained her team’s struggles as a result of not moving to the ball.
“One thing that I’ve emphasized all year is move in the direction of the ball,” said McKean. “Too often, we’re waiting for the ball to come to us.”
With sets of eyeballs watching the ball, Indian River found it difficult to score. The Lady Indians had opportunities to score but near misses and a lack of recognition stunted their chances at winning their first conference game of the season.
“We didn’t recognize the open pockets available to transition on offense,” said McKean. “We had four legitimate chances to score but our shots missed by just centimeters.”
Cape Henlopen was able to capitalize on Indian River’s indecisiveness and found the chink in their armor to put the ball in the net.
“They took over on our negatives,” said McKean. “Our left side was slow and they must have positioned their best players on their right side because they were able to capitalize on our weakness.”
Laura Oldenersta scored Cape Henlopen’s first goal at 13:26 in on an assist from Jen Warren. Brienna Faust scored an unassisted second goal with 1:46 remaining in the first half.
Despite trailing 2-0 at the half, McKean felt good about what her team could accomplish.
“We definitely matched up in my opinion,” said McKean, “and I was happy after halftime because we were in their circle within 30 seconds of the second half.”
Indian River was able to score, but not enough to counter Cape Henlopen’s prolific offense.
Ali Ambrose scored on an assist from Jordan Warrington with 9:31 remaining in the game but it was too late at that point. Indian River trailed Cape Henlopen 4-1 after Malorie Talbot and Jen Warren both added goals in the second half.
The Lady Vikings exposed Indian River’s slow-reacting defense which caused goalie Kathryn Riley to come out of the goal more often than not. Initially, Riley would make the kick save and one instance made a great sprawling kick save to stop an encroaching scoring opportunity. Cape Henlopen stuck with the play, though, and were able to put ball in the net four times.
Kaitlin Harper had Riley’s back, though, and made great stick saves in an exposed goal.
“Caitlin made four great saves for us defensively,” said McKean. “When Kathryn came out of the goal to make the kick save, Caitlin rotated over to weak side defense. I think that was our problem though — we played too much defense.”
Having players out of position gives the attacking team the advantage and falling early to teams hasn’t boded well for Indian River in the past, according to McKean. In her three-year tenure, Indian River field hockey has never won a come-from-behind game. In fact, they tend to give up the lead from time to time.
Indian River gave up a 2-0 lead against Dover last season at home to lose 3-2 at the end of regulation. McKean noted what her team lacked was mental toughness.
Despite other successful programs at IRHS, field hockey hasn’t yielded the same achievements.
“All of these girls have been in crunch time and it’s not that they don’t have the ability, it’s just that this particular group of girls haven’t been through this before,” said McKean.
McKean noted that their loss to Tatnall was in large part because her team was a bit intimidated or at least played that way.
“I think Tatnall got into their heads,” said McKean. “Some of their girls said we weren’t worth playing them and I think they took it personally, but if you can’t take that then it will be a long season.”
“I think my team was better than theirs but our team doesn’t use a team’s aggressiveness or abrasiveness as motivation,” said McKean.
McKean noted that her team succumbed to Tatnall’s physical play — vital to a team’s success.
“Getting position for the ball is everything,” said McKean. “You have to play to the whistle.”
The Lady Indians expected to get plenty of physical play on Sept 22 when they traveled to play Laurel. Indian River lost to Laurel 4-2 last year but this year’s game should be a great learning tool.
“Laurel’s coach is tough and so are her players,” said McKean. “This is exactly what we need. We have some good match-ups. We’ll have to see if we can pick up on the road.”