Last year, Indian River’s varsity girls’ soccer team finished with a 14-2-1 record and won the Southern Henlopen championship. They beat Dover 4-3 in the opening round of the state tournament but couldn’t keep up with A.I. DuPont’s speed, losing 4-0 in the second round.
Determined to improve on last year’s finish, head coach Steve Kilby strengthened the schedule to be better prepared for this year’s playoff, and part of that meant playing top teams early in the season.
The Lady Indians played quite a few play-days leading up to the regular season against up-state teams, and the ladies fared well — going 4-1-1 over a two-weekend period. The Lady Indians opened the season with a 6-0 shutout win over Woodbridge but faltered the next day in a 4-2 loss to Middletown.
Sophomore striker Michelle Giorgilli led the team with five goals and one assist for Molly Chamberlin’s first goal of the season but both players would have a hard time scoring against the Lady Riders.
Caesar Rodney used its overwhelming speed to jump out to a quick 2-0 first-half lead on two Kelli Dougherty unassisted goals, which is the kind of game head coach Darrell Gravatt likes.
“We like to take risks on the forward attack,” he said.
Caesar Rodney’s strikers swirled around the field like a bunch of specters and rifled 19 shots on goal — scoring on three. Goalie Bethany Beck totaled 13 saves compared to the Lady Riders’ four saves.
The Lady Indians cut the lead in half (2-1) with 11 minutes in the first half on a Giorgilli cross (second assist) to Sarah Purdhum for the goal. Giorgilli’s cross just barely cleared an anticipating Lady Riders keeper, leaving an empty net for Purdum. Caesar Rodney bombed back with another goal, this time by forward Sarah Andrade.
“They jumped on us right away,” Kilby said. “We were sleepwalking for the first 15 minutes and then we actually started to play for the next 20 minutes. But we made poor defensive decisions, which kind of took the wind out of our sails.”
Kilby mentioned that Caesar Rodney liked to pass from the inside out, but they simply couldn’t stop the barrage.
“We knew it was coming,” Kilby said of Caesar Rodney’s give-and-go offense. “Speed kills,” he concluded.
The Lady Indians had another empty-net scoring opportunity late in the second half on a Chamberlin squib shot but it was cleared by a Lady Riders defender.
“She did a good job cutting the ball off and she clipped the ball — it just didn’t have enough,” Kilby said of Chamberlin’s near goal. “It was a great effort and — who knows — down 3-2 maybe we find something down deep. But it just didn’t happen.”
Despite matching their loss total from last year against talented teams, the Lady Indians have a heap of time to re-route — especially with upcoming conference play. They were set to play Milford (March 30), Sussex Tech (April 4), Sussex Central (April 6) and Delmar (April 11).