Indian River’s varsity field hockey team still has more than a week before their regular opens up, but first-year head coach Cheryl Carey is taking full advantage of the team’s preseason to ensure that the girls are where they need to be.
Sophomore Jodie Powell gave the Lady Indians a hand on offense during a Tuesday afternoon scrimmage earlier this week against Decatur.
“We’re working really hard,” said Powell. “All of the girls on the team have the same drive and have heart, and we want to have a good season. We’ve been pushing each other every day at practice, and the scrimmages help, too.”
Tuesday’s scrimmage rounded out the team’s preseason, after a scrimmage against James M Bennett and a Polytech play day in the prior week showed Indian River where they had to step it up.
“The game situations are really helping us a lot,” said Carey. “At practice, all we’re really doing is focusing on skill development, but we’ve kind of been in isolation. Once we put things in a game situation, we get to see how it’s really working.”
This year, Carey is looking to fill the void left by 10 graduated seniors from last fall’s roster, including Bridget Wilgus, Taylor Wharton and Jenny Morin. Veteran players, such as Michele Murray and Alissa Porter, help to lead this season’s senior-class players, with plenty of young players coming through, as well.
“We’ve got a lot of great athletes on the team this year,” said Carey. “We’re still seeing where everyone fits on the field. During the play day, I used five different lineups to see who works where.”
While a strong offense capable of putting the ball in the cage was the focus last year, under then-head coach Julene Williamson, Carey’s more concerned with building up from the back and getting the girls in the right positions this year.
“The score is not everything,” she said. “I want the team to do some self-reflecting. After each game, they are trying to build on what they’re doing well and seeing what we need to work on. Our wins and losses don’t matter in the preseason.”
Carey said she wants to make sure the Lady Indians are well prepared when they open up on Monday, Sept. 13, hosting Red Lion Christian Academy – one of only three teams that Indian River was able to defeat last year.
“We’re definitely building defensively,” Carey added. “I want to have a sound defense, and after that, we’ve been working on positioning and being in the right place to attack the ball. Once we get those down, everything will fall into place. Offensively, we will be able to get our fast breaks, whether we’re move into a triangle or pushing the ball laterally.”
Carey has been an instrumental part of Indian River’s athletic staff, following a number of the sports, manning the stat book and managing teams, but the former field hockey athlete said she is thrilled to be back in the saddle with field hockey, as head coach this year.
“I love being out here,” she said “I have always loved playing field hockey as a student athlete, and I know a lot about the game. These girls are really fun, and they work hard. That’s all I’m asking of them. I want them to play the game smarter. We have had a chance to see what we’re up against in the play day, so we’ve got to come out strong.”
She has some help this season on the sideline from her husband, Steve, as well as from Williamson and assistant coach Michelle Clark.
Last year, the Lady Indians finished 3-11-1, but with an established defense and offense this season, they show great promise to pick up the pace. The opening week of the schedule alone will see three games, as they face Red Lion, Caesar Rodney and Woodbridge, all within a four-day span.
“There are no really big things we need to work on [until then],” said Powell, “just a few minor things. We need to get the ball from the defense up to our mids, and work it to the offense and into the goal.”