The Indian River girls soccer team (13-3 overall) owned the Henlopen Conference this season, only two conference losses, to Caesar Rodney and Delmar. And the team just recently stamped its mark on two upstate teams, to conclude the regular season with eight straight wins.
They coasted past Caravel 4-1 on May 13 and shut out Tower Hill on May 16 to give themselves a nice launching point heading into this year’s state tournament — and communication was the key.
Head Coach Steve Kilby stresses communication as an integral part of playing great soccer and he noted his that his players are starting to catch on in the nick of time.
“I’ve been preaching it (communication) for two years. They talk to each other about everything from the color of their prom dresses to what they’re going to eat for dinner. But when they get out there (earlier in the season) — they shut up,” Kilby said. “Now we’re creating numbers-up situations. We know what we’re doing, and we thinking a pass or two ahead. And it’s all because they did a great job of communicating with each other (against Caravel).”
Midfielder Ellen DuPont and defender Kelly Jurusik quarterbacked their team to a T against the Lady Bucs, which in turn created favorable numbers-up situations and Molly Chamberlin’s third hat-trick of the season.
“We had excellent ball movement and really made good use of Sara Purdum — 70 percent of our attack came from the right side on cross after cross,” Kilby noted. “They couldn’t control her.”
Cross after cross led to Chamberlin’s game-high three goals, on assists from Marlena Schleifer, Michelle Giorgilli and Ali Ambrose, and a late score by Kiarra Graves.
Chamberlin modestly accepted congratulations on her accomplishment but readily credited her teammates for the scores. She also offered up the view that it helps that they’ve played so long together.
“Most of us have been playing together since we were 10 years old, so now we’re clicking. We know where everyone is going to be on the field and I just happened to be in the right places at the right time, so I have to give credit to the passes,” she said.
Indian River lambasted Laurel 10-0 on May 11 and, though communication is a huge factor in their success, it also helps that they don’t need as many defenders.
Kilby uses only three defenders to allow them one more midfielder, with five, which is made possible by the maturation of Jurusik’s play.
“Kelly is huge to what we do because it changes the system of play to a zonal system,” he said. “She has to direct everybody from the defensive backs, defensive mids, to outside backs and midfielders. But between her and Ellen (as communicators) we are finally to the point where she can is comfortable and we’re successful.”
Indian River’s regular-season finale win over Tower Hill didn’t go as smoothly as the Caravel win, due to poor field conditions, but the Lady Indians rallied in the second half following a “halftime tongue-lashing,” to put them away.
“That game was a tale of two halves,” Kilby said. “The first half was the worst half we’ve played all year — it wasn’t pretty and part of that was due to the field conditions. We figured out what was happening and it was good to see them respond after making adjustments at halftime.”
Chamberlin broke the stalemate on a Giorgilli assist and the Lady Indians’ John Stockton took it from there.
Jenna McKone served up an assist to Giorgilli but the other she scored herself.
“As a coach, you can feel at ease with the ball at her feet. She makes great decisions and can play it to Molly, Sarah and Marlena…” Kilby said.
“She’s a great teammate,” Chamberlin added, “and she can take shots from far and score.”
Giorgilli showed the same precision that she has on her corner kicks on a late 20- to 30-yard shot in the Caravel game and just missed when it thumped against the crossbar.
“That was unlucky,” commented Chamberlin.
Their wins over Tower Hill and Caravel not only gave the Lady Indians valuable points toward the state tournament seeding but also let everyone know that Indian River can play with any team — upstate or down.
“This (Caravel) was a big win for us because it was against an upstate team. People think that soccer isn’t as good down here, so it’s definitely a big accomplishment to beat an upstate team, Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin noted that the team goal is to do better than their second-round appearance last year, which Kilby said is a great possibility if they play the entire game.
“The only game I felt bad about all year is the Delmar loss and that was because we didn’t play for the first 25 to 30 minutes. In that time we fell behind 2-0 and we outscored them from there,” Kilby said of the 3-2 loss.
“But you can’t win and spot a team two goals. Though I do think we do a lot of things — communicating being ‘numero uno’ — better than we did last year, and I think a lot of that is due to maturity. So now all we have to do is go out there and play hard for a full 80 minutes,” Kilby concluded.