Indian River’s boys’ varsity soccer team was primed for running deep in the Delaware State Soccer Tournament after defeating Delmar 3-0 in the opening round. But they fell short of their goal, losing to Tower Hill 2-0 on Nov. 12.
Tower Hill struggled to beat Seaford in their opening-round game but eventually pushed past the Blue Jays 2-1 in overtime. It took Indian River two overtimes to defeat Seaford in the regular season, which indicated a likely evenly matched game against the Hillers in the second round.
Indian River had an opportunity to watch Tower Hill play against Seaford. Head Coach Howard Gerken was encouraged by Seaford’s hustle and noted that if they could do the same thing, then they could win the game. Unfortunately, Indian River fell victim to the injury bug and had to play without some of their best players.
Ethan Davis injured his toe, Dan Kleinstuber rolled an ankle and Gerken’s hardest hustler, Ben Gichner, left the game with about 20 minutes remaining.
“With Ben out, we played without half of our offense,” said Gerken.
Overall, Gerken didn’t want to make excuses for his team and said Tower Hill just beat them to the punch at critical moments.
“They won more 50/50 balls and controlled the midfield,” said Gerken. “They played harder than their first game and we didn’t play as hard. So the combination of the two things was trouble.”
Tower Hill scored both goals in the second half, one of which deflected off an Indian River player.
“There was no way Sean could’ve made those saves,” said Gerken. “They were nice scores.”
Neither team had an overwhelming number of shots-on-goal. But Tower Hill was able to total five more, which proved to be the deciding factor in such an evenly-matched game.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been associated with a team that won 16 and tied one and felt bad about our season,” said Gerken. “We truly believed in our hearts that we’d go further than we did.”
Gerken noted that both the Caesar Rodney and Cape Henlopen soccer programs equated to Tower Hill’s talent level. But the difference in the second-round state tournament loss was a matter of who wanted to win more.
“Bottom line: Tower Hill played harder and wanted to win more,” said Gerken. “We’re happy to win the Henlopen Conference, as well as the Henlopen South, and overall we had a great season. The kids that are coming back will remember this game.”
Indian River finished the season with a 16-1-1 record.
On a side note: an Indian River co-ed alumni soccer game is scheduled for Nov. 26 for a 1 p.m. start time at the John M. Clayton School (the former Indian River High School) soccer field. Gerken is inviting IRHS alumni to come out and shoot the breeze about old times and Indian River’s recent accomplishments for old time’s sake. For more information, call Gerken at (302) 732-6835 or Nick Slonin at (302) 344-0890.