Familiar foe ahead

Last season Indian River’s Lady Indians soccer team bested Dover twice in overtime — once in the regular season and then in the first round of the state tournament, under contentious circumstances. As the top seed of last year’s state tournament, Indian River was supposed to host its game against Dover but field conditions dictated otherwise.

Indian River won, despite having the carpet swept out from under them. But this is a new year and they face a new Dover team.

Last year, Lady Senators Head Coach Kristin Lupo had that one player that she and her players could count on, in second-team All-State and first team All-Conference forward Erin Mitten. They knew that she would put the ball where it needed to be or could break a tie with a critical goal as time expires.

But Mitten graduated, leaving a cavernous void in Lupo’s roster and the team’s confidence.

Dover was winning 2-0 in the first half of play in last year’s opening-round game against Indian River but Mitten injured her anterior cruciate ligament and left the game.

“From there, we pretty much died,” explained Lupo. “Without her, we knew we couldn’t win. When she was out there, the girls could guarantee something good would come out of it. She could control the ball and knew what to do with it. She played on the Kirkwood teams and the girls knew that.”

Thus far, Dover sports a 3-2 record, similar to Indian River’s. Both teams lost to Middletown. Dover lost a 3-2 game to Cape Henlopen on April 4 and Indian River lost 3-1 to Caesar Rodney. Despite having the same records against comparable competition, Lupo knows that her girls will have to play the game of their lives to win against IR.

“Indian River plays with a lot of heart,” Lupo said. “It says a lot when a team can come back in double overtime and win. It shows a lot of fight.”

Indian River’s strength is that they are deep at every position on the field. They not only have extensive playing experience but also have some young players that contribute quality minutes as well, which is something Lupo has been force-fed.

“On any given day I could have six freshmen on the field and four or five starting,” she said, due to nagging injuries to her starters.

Their lack of varsity experience could play a part in the game — especially against a playoff-tested Lady Indians team.

Last season, Lupo admitted, she tried to mark up man-to-man and especially wanted to shut down halfback Michelle Giorgilli. She felt that if Giorgilli couldn’t make the passes in, then Dover’s chances of winning would improve drastically.

“I’ve watched Michelle grow up and am very familiar with her capabilities. She has a great cross and a nice shot from the outside. She’s not only a threat to score but can put the ball on others. I’ve told my girls that they can’t let her run free,” Lupo said. “We did a good job against her in both games last year. I know she didn’t score, but Indian River has a number of threats up top. If you concentrate on her (Giorgilli) then they’ll score goals elsewhere.”

Giorgilli has scored a team-high seven of the team’s 20 goals this season and added three assists from her outside position. Either she’s going to put it in or one of her teammates is — either way, it gets the job done.

“I look for the opening and who’s working hard,” Giorgilli explained. “The harder they work, the more they want it.”

Indian River and Dover play similar offenses. Dover wants to work the ball around and string passes together, just like the Lady Indians. So the game should be a mirror image on both sides, leaving the win to the team that executes the best.

“The more we pass, the better we’ll do. And if we connect our passes, eventually we’ll finish,” said Giorgilli of their 1-0 win over Sussex Tech.

“Dover will be competitive,” Lady Indians Head Coach Steve Kilby said. “We’ll have to be ready for them.

Dover beat Delmar — Indian River’s lone regular-season loss — 2-1 on March 28.