Howard Gerken’s Indian River High School varsity soccer team is boiling hot this season. They beat their last two opponents (Lake Forest and Poly Tech) by a combined score of 11-0, which improved their regular-season record to 11-0-1 as they continue their march towards the state tournament.
The Indians offense has sustained itself despite missing their talented striker, Martin Chavez, to injury, and the defense has continued their shutout play. Strong play at both ends means trouble for opposing teams — but to compete later in the season, they will need to improve.
“We need to start finishing,” said Morgan Hunt. “We should finish on more than half of our shots.”
Indian River mustered an astounding 19 shots on goal in the first half against Poly Tech to the opponents’ single shot on goal, but Indian River wasn’t able to finish. Danny Kleinstuber scored at 34:22 on an assist from Luke Wingate, but that was it for the first half.
“We made their goalie look good,” said Gerken. “We hit six to eight balls straight at him. You’re not going to win many games if you only score one out of 20.”
The second half looked more like a track meet because the Indians ran like dogs were chasing them. Indian River scored five goals to distance themselves from Poly Tech.
Pierson Roenke scored the next two goals about three minutes into the second half and within 30 seconds of each other (37:35 and 37:02). Kleinstuber assisted Roenke on the first goal but Roenke poked in the next on his own.
At 34:25 Hunt blasted a free kick in for Indian River’s fourth goal.
“I’ve had trouble with free kicks all season, but I saw the keeper cheating off his line so I went for the goal,” said Hunt.
A foot forward or backward could have made a ton of difference, because the ball just skimmed off the keepers hands for the goal.
It isn’t too often that Ben Gichner doesn’t score for the Indians, and at 23:43 he would get his first chance. He struck the ball from the right side of the keepers’ box and pushed it into the open space on the left. As the ball was going in, Tommy Reichart chipped it in for a little insurance. A Gichner goal quickly turned into an assist.
Fletcher Garrison put the nail in the coffin by scoring the last Indian River goal, unassisted, at 13:23.
The Indians’ shots-made-to-shots-taken ratio improved to 5:13, which equates to 38 percent. Though the mark doesn’t meet with Hunt’s expectations, it isn’t too bad according to Gerken.
“Professionals don’t even finish on 50 percent of their goals,” said Gerken. “If you could do that, you would have an outstanding team.”
Indian River’s first-half inefficiency was made up by hustle, and in the second half that was the key according to Hunt.
“We’re probably the most fit team,” said Hunt. “We’ve been running a lot this year at practice.”
The Indians three fullbacks — Andrew Cordell-Carey, Ethan Davis and Wingate — along with goalie Sean Lewis, earned another stripe by doing their parts. Gerken noted that it’s hard to maintain focus for the full 80 minutes of play, but his defense allowed time for their scorers to put points on the board.
“When your defense doesn’t give up any points, it allows you to be patient and wait for the offense to score,” said Gerken.
“Sean Lewis made some nice throws to midfield and beyond to get the ball out to his offensive players,” said Gerken.
With only four regular-season matches remaining — and Caesar Rodney the most heralded of the opponents — Indian River must keep up their head of steam and start finishing goals if they are to compete with the best.
“Salesianium is a really good team and finishing will be the difference in the state tournament,” said Hunt.
Indian River was set to travel to Smyrna Oct. 20 and Laurel Oct. 25, before hosting Caesar Rodney on Oct. 27. Each game has a start time of 5:30 p.m.