After a light rain passed through on Tuesday afternoon, the Lady Indians took to the soccer field for their season-opener under the lights against rival Dover. Despite the slick conditions and an early Senators’ goal, Indian River pulled out a commanding victory, coming out on top, 4-1.
A Dover goal within the first 10 minutes of the game, courtesy of Emily Vansickle, hushed the hosting Indians, but they returned fire with haste. Senior Michelle Giorgilli followed up a penalty kick by freshman striker Kaitlin Forte to bring the game to an early tie.
Establishing defense had been an initial concern of Indian River coach Steve Kilby, going into Tuesday’s game, although as play progressed both offense and defense solidly held their own. Forte capitalized with a seemingly effortless assist to freshman Miranda Warrington just four minutes before halftime, before adding to the lead with a goal of her own in the second. Warrington added a second goal to secure the win.
Goalkeeper Taylor Mushrush made her starting varsity debut, and came with something to prove.
“We were kind of nervous tonight,” she said. “Dover was one of our losses last year and we really wanted to come out and make a big impression and show — not just our division but the conference — that we’re here and we’re going to win.”
Amidst fierce slides and powerful shots to the face, Mushrush was able to fend off Dover’s attempts, shutting them out in the second half. “[Aggressive play] really builds momentum,” she said. “Once you realize you stopped another goal, it pushes you right back into the game.”
Warrington, who hardly looked like a newcomer on the team, was pleased with the way the Lady Indians were able to gel together.
“It was a good chance for us to step up as a team,” she said. “We have a phenomenal front line. There’s not much that can stop us up there. We all work off of each other pretty well.”
Kilby, too, was satisfied with the front line’s finishes on the ball.
“Miranda [Warrington] and Kaitlin [Forte] played off each other very well and they were finding each other’s feet. We’re really fortunate to have such a talented group of freshmen.”
Notable aggression from midfield also contributed to the IR victory.
“[Freshman] Michaella [Evans], Marlena [Schleifer] and Michelle [Giorgilli] really controlled the midfield for us,” said Kilby. “And we focused a lot on playing inside out, with them being the target players, playing on the flanks. They did a nice job with that tonight to stretch Dover’s defense.”
Schleifer and Giorgilli join fellow senior Jenna McKone as tri-captains. McKone’s leadership on defense will help rekindle the strength that graduating seniors took last year from the Indians’ backfield. Kilby added, though, that he places a lot of his faith this year upon his keeper.
“Taylor Mushrush stepped up for her first game as a varsity keeper,” he said. “The first goal was unfortunate. It just looped over her head, but she made all the saves she needed to make. She’s a strong athlete.”
Although a victory in the team’s opener is fulfilling, there were a few more elements Kilby hoped to get into place before Thursday’s match at Polytech (after Coastal Point deadline).
“We were trying to emphasize that this was the first conference game of the year and we needed to be ready to go,” he said. “We’re looking to play a little bit quicker out of midfield. In the first half, we were taking too many touches. Our forwards were making some nice runs, but with that extra touch, they were getting shut down.”
The Lady Indians will travel to Cape Henlopen on Saturday before hosting Smyrna next Tuesday, April 8, and square off against Sussex Central on Thursday. All games are scheduled for 7 p.m.