Indian River High School girls’ varsity soccer coach Steve Kilby has his team right where they need to be this year. In a month’s time, the Lady Indians have worked together, combining young, fresh talent with established, reputable experience to prove that they are very much contenders for the state title.
In the past 11 games, they’ve given up only one loss, and have managed to outscore their opponents 52-8, with six shutouts. Only in their solitary loss to Caesar Rodney two weeks ago did they let up more than one goal in an entire game.
Indian River continued their dominance on the pitch this past week as the girls’ soccer team extended their record to 10-1, with an 8-0 shutout against Woodbridge and a fierce 3-1 dominance over 8-1 Delmar on Tuesday night.
Delmar came with their own intensity, scoring first in the game under the lights, though the Lady Indians were quick to answer back. Freshman Kaitlin Forte punched a tying shot to the back of the net before knocking a second by the keeper in a one-on-one breakaway.
Prior to Tuesday night’s match-up, Delmar had only given up a game to Dover back in early April, losing by a tight 2-1 margin.
Senior midfielder Marlena Schleifer extended the lead in the 58th minute when she sailed a direct free kick over the keeper’s head from 25 yards out. Powering defense and mids helped aid IR’s senior goalkeeper Taylor Mushrush to a second-half shutout.
Tuesday’s game had a lot on the line, as each team came with a lot to prove. Aggressive and physical play from both sides of the ball swapped back and forth between the teams. “Our team managed to stay classy and focused,” said IR senior co-captain Michelle Giorgilli. “We built a lot of opportunities to help ourselves.”
The captains’ guidance and organization helped the team operate as one unit, setting the pace of the match.
“Defensively, we stayed in tact,” Giorgilli added. “In a game like this, you want the ball to do the work for you, and I think we let that happen. We play really well collectively, too. It’s not just the midfield doing the work or just the defense. It’s
everybody working together, and it all adds up.”
Schleifer, another senior co-captain, couldn’t have been more pleased with the team’s performance on Tuesday.
“Honestly, I’ve never been more proud of anyone I’ve played with at Indian River,” she said. “Usually, this game would be a bloodbath, but we all kept our cool. We came out as a different team in the second half. We came out with a lot more, and we were able to possess the ball in our half. A couple people got shook up tonight, but we played our game and not theirs.”
Midfielder Jordan Warrington took a few minutes to recuperate on the side after fending off a vicious second-half slide tackle.
“We calmed down and slowed down so we were playing at our pace with our heads in the game,” she added. “We were able to control them instead of them controlling us.” Her contributing goal put the Indians up by two and got the team fired up.
“That goal gave us a lot of confidence,” said Giorgilli.
Schleifer described the mechanics of her impressive shot. “[Coach] Kilby had been telling us to put the ball on the frame all night because he saw some weakness with the goalie’s performance,” she said. “Anything from that far out is usually going to be a direct shot at the goal. I had a few that I had flubbed before, but I was able to put it where I wanted to that time.”
Kilby commented this week on the team’s performance, commending them for their ability to keep their heads in the game.
“A lot of times, it’s hard to come back [when your opponent scores first],” he said, “but these girls don’t quit. It’s unfortunate that we gave up a goal early, but they didn’t stop playing. You have to attribute a lot of our success to those center-mids, Michelle [Giorgilli] and Marlena [Schleifer]. They’re creating so many opportunities for other players, and when we rotate [Kaitlin] Forte into that mix, she’s just as creative and works just as hard.”
Crashing the goal and following the shots was one of the points he stressed to his team the whole game.
“We thought [Delmar’s goalie] was susceptible to those kinds of shots,” he said. “She dropped four or five balls when we were just staying there and could have possibly gotten a little more gravy.”
The girls have stepped up with aggressive play all season, but Delmar’s game was one of the few this year where the opponents pushed back.
“We talked about it,” he said. “They wanted to make sure that we stuck to our game plan, moving the ball around, not letting some late tackles affect how we did or did not play.”
The Lady Indians will square off against Lake Forest next Tuesday, May 6, at 7 p.m., allowing for some recovery time this weekend. They will turn around to host Smyrna on Wednesday, May 7, at 7 p.m. and travel to Laurel on Thursday, May 8, for a 4 p.m. game. With a hard push at practice this past Wednesday, Kilby promised the girls some relaxation on Thursday and Friday.
“We have to look ahead,” he said. “States are right around the corner. We want to finish this year strong.”