Balance is a wonderful thing and the Indian River varsity boy’s soccer team has that very luxury. Offense, defense, depth, experience and athleticism are the ingredients to a competitive team, according to Head Coach Howard Gerken, and his team has all of them.
“We have a very good division of athletes in each class,” said Gerken. “Even though we lost four starters to graduation, we have our top four scorers back, three out of four defenders return and we have our goalie.”
Indian River’s starting goalie, sophomore Sean Lewis, returns to the net bigger, better and much stronger, according to Gerken. Lewis attended River Soccer Club’s Keeper Academy this summer — run by Indian River athletic trainer Todd Fuhrman — which has fostered substantial growth.
“Sean has improved a lot from last year,” said Gerken. “He has great instincts and anticipates the ball so well. The camp has made him better in the goal. He’s also gained some weight and strength which will help his game.”
Gerken also expects his multi-talented scorer, Martin Chavez, to play a major role this season.
“Martin is the only player that we have that can play a pass off his chest to his feet without the ball hitting the ground,” said Gerken.
Peirson Roenke, Billy Powell and Ben Kishner also figure to play prominent roles as scorers for Indian River this season, but nobody is promised anything, according to Gerken.
They had 38 players come out for the Indian River soccer program and all of them will get an opportunity to play or contribute because there are so many athletes on the team.
“We’re going to be very competitive for various positions and playing time,” said Gerken. “A couple guys have an inside track but we said early in the season that every position was up for grabs. Starters from last year aren’t guaranteed positions this year if they don’t work for it. We’ll replace them with whoever works the hardest.”
Gerken attributes such competition as the foundation for future teams to improve and become more competitive.
“That’s why St. Marks and Salesianium have such strong programs,” said Gerken. “They have fierce competition for every starting position.”
Gerken noted that several freshmen would get a look on the varsity squad this season as well due to their extensive playing experience and skill level.
“Cameron [Travalini] is a great athlete and Chris [Conover] has been with the River Soccer program for some time, so they will get an opportunity to play,” said Gerken.
Before the Indians can start thinking about the postseason and taking on the top programs in the state, or even before they get their game jerseys, Gerken’s team must first come together as a team to work as a cohesive unit.
“To be competitive we have to have all 10 players moving together,” said Gerken. “They all have to be on the same page — reading each other’s minds and anticipating what their teammates are going to do offensively and defensively.”
Indian River has a busy schedule the latter part of this week (Aug. 25 and 27). and will participate in two play-days in which Gerken will have a better idea of how far the team has progressed and where they stand. The team is one of 40 that will participate at the Kirkwood facility in Delaware City on Aug. 25 and will travel to North Dorchester County for a second play-day which will start at 9 a.m. on Aug 27.
The Indians travel to Newark for the regular season-opener on Sept. 10.