Despite holding only a first-half 1-0 advantage over Seaford’s youthful squad on Oct. 3, the Indian River varsity soccer team (7-1) appeared on its way to an eighth straight win after defeating state tournament contenders Delmar and Dover on a pair of hat-tricks by Pierson Roenke and Peter Mais. But they fell instead, 3-2, for their first loss of the season.
Seaford (6-1-1) has only two returning starters on a team of 15. Two of five freshmen start, and another sees considerable time. So when Blue Jays head coach Tim Lee spoke to his players during halftime he told them not to cower to the perennial Henlopen champs.
“I told them that they didn’t have to be shy because that’s what they were supposed to be,” Lee said. “For them, this is the big-time. Indian River’s a very well-rounded team and has a lot of depth but in the end, my guys didn’t quit.”
Indian River had nine shots on goal, compared to Seaford’s six. But the Indians were only able to score one goal, on an assist from Mais to Roenke, and Seaford made them pay.
Seaford came out and played inspired soccer in the second half. Paul Widerman had tied the game. And, after 17 minutes had ticked off the game clock, they’d taken a 3-1 lead on junior Trevor Lee’s 16th and 17th goals of the season.
“We didn’t finish our chances in the first half,” Indian River head coach Steve Kilby said. “We let them hang around and we paid for it.”
“We took the first 15 minutes off of the second half and it showed,” Kilby added. “We specifically addressed not letting Lee turn or run straight at us, and he made us pay.”
Lee was able to use his speed to get behind the defense and was able to score goals from either side of the goal, with both feet, in a little more than a minute’s time (1:04).
“I think we went into the half pretty cocky, with the idea that we had the game won. But when they tied the game, the emotion swung to their side,” assistant head coach Howard Gerken said. “By the time they took a 2-1 and 3-1 lead, Seaford was playing with a lot of emotion.”
Mais jumpstarted the languishing Indian River offense in the 12th minute of the second half, after breaking away along the end line to center a pass for a streaking Charlie Cole for the header and the Indians’ second goal. Indian River outshot Seaford again in the second half, 14:5, for a grand total of 22:11 (2:1) with two Cameron Travalini shots hitting the upper and side posts. Down only one goal, the Indians’ attack intensified but to no avail.
“They definitely gave me a couple scares,” Andrew Halter said.
And with less than two minutes remaining, Indian River’s hopes of sending the game into an overtime period were thwarted when Halter wrapped his arms around a Morgan Hunt corner kick to Luke Wingate.
“Today was a grown-up experience for my guys, especially going down goals,” Lee said.
Indian River has the week off (after an Oct. 5 match with Cape Henlopen) and won’t play again till Oct. 12, when they host Lake Forest at 7 p.m.