Saturday, Sept. 9, marks the home season opener for the Indian River High School varsity soccer team, against the Newark Yellow Jackets.
Newark’s soccer program has been in decline over the past few years but new coach Bill Boyer has plenty of experience in the game — and with Indian River head coach Steve Kilby.
Both coaches earned their coaching certification and coached together on an Olympic developmental squad, though each is at a different stage of their program’s development.
Indian River is coming off a 16-1-1 season that ended in the second round of the state tournament, has numerous returning players and appears to have a solid nucleus of underclassmen coming up from Selbyville Middle School and the River Soccer Club.
Newark, on the other hand, is coming off a losing season (7-9-1) and hasn’t made the state tournament since the 2000 season, when they were ranked seventh with an 11-5-2 record.
Having coached perennial state tournament contender Archmere for nine years, and at Wilmington College for a handful of years, Boyer has plenty of experience and the first thing he knows is that his squad will have their hands full on Saturday.
“Indian River is one of the stronger teams in the state and should be a favorite to win the conference,” Boyer said. “They’re a well-coached team and have a solid group of players.”
Newark’s road doesn’t start with Indian River though. They will face off with last year’s state tournament No. 8 seed, Brandywine the today before heading down the road for their match-up with Indian River on Saturday evening.
“They’re going to be fired up, playing under the lights in their [home] opening game,” Boyer said of the Indians. “We’ll have to play Friday and fight hard for at least a tie against Brandywine, and then deal with Indian River on Saturday.”
Kilby expressed a certain level of satisfaction with his team’s play thus far, as they have won every play-day mini-game and tied one against Brandywine — a game in which three shots hit the goal posts.
“I would say we’re very satisfied with our team [as of this point],” Kilby said. “We’re cautiously optimistic. We hope that all our hard work will pay off.”
Despite Newark’s lack of success over the past five seasons, Kilby is confident that Boyer will have his team ready.
“Bill will have his team very well organized and will understand their roles,” Kilby said.
Boyer hasn’t seen Indian River play recently but, knowing Kilby, he is certain that Newark can expect a formidable team.
“Knowing Steve, he’ll make a formation based on the players he has,” Boyer said. “They’ll move as a unit, have a compact defense, counterattack — especially if they have good scorers. And they’ll be aggressive — and not in a bad way.”
The junior varsity soccer team will take the field first at John M. Clayton field (old IRHS) at 4 p.m. and the varsity match will follow at roughly 5:30 p.m.
Indian River will host Woodbridge on Sept. 12 and travel to Caesar Rodney on Sept. 14, both with 7 p.m. start times.