Indian River’s varsity soccer team sputtered then accelerated past Delmar on Nov. 8 to earn their first state tournament win of the 2005 season.
As the No. 2 seed, Indian River was a clear-cut favorite to win the game and 22 shots on goal would seemingly ensure an easy victory. But missed shots and stellar goal play by Jared Brittingham kept the game close, though Delmar eventually gave way to the Indians, 3-0.
Indian striker Ben Gichner led the team in shots-on-goal, with seven, but even triple- and quadruple-teaming couldn’t hem him in. It took about 20 minutes for the Indians to score and then Gichner did the honors on a Pierson Roenke assist.
Just 27 seconds later, Roenke intercepted a weak Delmar pass and dribbled the remaining 15 yards to score the unassisted goal. Prior to Roenke’s goal, Brittingham saved three of the Indians’ nine shots. The remaining five shots missed and sailed wide.
“Pierson’s steal from the fullback was crucial,” said Head Coach Howard Gerken.
Delmar mustered only two first-half shots, both of which were saved by goalie Sean Lewis. But a 2-0 lead is better than a 1-0 lead. Anything is possible in the state tournament.
Seaford held a 1-1 tie throughout their first-round game against Indian River’s next opponent, Tower Hill, so every goal inched the team closer to the next round.
“It’s been kind of frustrating [not scoring goals] but it’s definitely an accomplishment when you score two goals so close together,” said Gichner.
Midfielder Ed Smith slid and poked in the Indians final goal in on a Dan Kleinstuber assist. Brittingham secured eight saves — five of which were in the second half — on 12 Indian shots, compared to Lewis’s five saves.
Despite his team winning, Gerken remained concerned about their inability to put the ball in the goal. But he was happy that they converted when they did.
“I’m always concerned when we don’t score with a lot of shots,” said Gerken. “But finally we scored on a couple of good opportunities.”
Gerken noted that they’ll have to get a faster start as they trudge along through the state tournament, especially as the talent level improves.
“This was a nice win to start the tournament.” said Gerken. “But we played the first 15 minutes scared. We need to play a full 80 minutes instead of 60 minutes.”
Indian River was set to play Tower Hill on Nov. 12 at Weseley College in Dover with a 6 p.m. start time.
Tower Hill defeated Seaford 2-1 in the first of four sudden-death overtime periods and, waiting for the game to end, Indian River got a good look at the competition.
“On the positive side, it was good to see Seaford do as well as they did,” said Gerken. “They hustled and played hard if we do those things we will be successful.”
Gerken noted that Tower Hill’s defense looked a little suspect, so the Indians strikers may have opportunities to get behind the defense to score. The Indians midfielders and defense will have their hands full, because Tower Hill is very precise and has fast passers.
“Our midfielders are going to have to get back to help the fullbacks out,” said Gerken.