Earning respect from one’s peers can be the ultimate satisfaction. The Indian River varsity soccer team may have done just that by tying their northern counterpart, Cape Henlopen, 1-1 on Oct. 6 and downing Dover 2-0 on Oct. 11 as they pushed their way toward a higher position in the state rankings.
Though both teams were undefeated and can score in bunches, Cape Henlopen and Indian River slugged it out in what looked like a barroom brawl, and the referees let them compete.
By game’s end, dirt soiled entire jerseys and some players sported noticeable limps from the aggressive play. But neither team gave up despite the odds or circumstances.
The fans were up in arms about the brutality of the play, but coaches like to see their athletes compete in tougher situations. It lets them know what kind of team they have.
“You have to come ready to play,” said Head Coach Howard Gerken. “The referees did a good job of controlling the game and let the kids play.”
Cape Henlopen drew first blood with goalie Sean Lewis just out of reach of making the save. Cape Henlopen had numbers on Lewis, and Tommy Grogan headed a ball down that then hopped over Lewis’ head and was headed again by Mike Shook for the go-ahead goal.
The Vikings only mustered 10 shots on goal and Lewis made six saves. But each was important — especially since he had to make risky sliding-grab saves in front of eager Cape scorers.
Luke Wingate bailed out Lewis where he made the initial save but left an empty net with about 16 minutes into the second half. Despite seeing more action in recent games, Lewis has the confidence of his team.
“Sean (Lewis) has worked really hard to become a good goaltender,” said Gerken. “He had a good season last year, but when presented with a challenge he certainly rises to the occasion. He made key saves in both games (Cape and Dover) that if he didn’t then we might’ve lost those games.”
From there Cape Henlopen kept the pressure on — especially speedy striker Ben Gichner. Gichner never had an opportunity to get out in front on a breakaway because of the Vikings’ stellar defense. They bottled up one of the Indians most defendable scorers by double- and triple-teaming and their defensive speed helped as well.
“They had fast players in back (defense) — probably just as fast as Ben,” said Gerken. “He just didn’t get as many opportunities.”
When they had opportunities, Indian River missed, but just barely. Andrew Cordell-Carey nearly converted a header on a corner kick but Cape Henlopen goalie Jayson Abel made a beautiful save.
“That keeper came out of nowhere,” said Gerken. “From our angle it looked like it was a sure goal. But that’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes it goes in when it probably shouldn’t and sometimes you miss a shot that you probably should make. That’s soccer.”
Pierson Roenke scored Indian River’s lone goal.
Through both overtime periods, neither team would score. Cape Henlopen played a man down in the second overtime but the Vikings played up a level and were able to hold onto the tie.
Indian River wouldn’t allow Dover to come into town and further blemish their record, though. Both teams had a nearly equal number of scoring opportunities (19 shots on goal for Dover and 20 for Indian River) but only Indian River would score.
Peter Mais broke the stalemate in the first half when he stole a Dover pass, dribbling about 10 yards before he chipped the ball to a breaking Roenke, who would score easily.
“He curved the ball around the defender on my way to the goal, and I saw a hole and went for it,” said Roenke.
“Peter has played well and been serving balls well from his position,” said Gerken. “It’s hard to believe he’s only a freshman.”
The Indians’ other goal came on Gichner making things happen. He used his speed to get down field and his quickness and footwork to settle himself before he slapped the cross-net shot from the left side in for the goal.
Two goals would prove to be enough especially when Lewis was able to stop 11 of Dover’s 19 shots. Gerken noted that Lewis has stepped up his performance — but so has Indian River’s defensive squad.
“Andrew (Cordell-Carey) did a good job cleaning up in front of Sean,” said Gerken.
It’s been the unselfish play of Indian River’s defense and midfielders that have given Gichner and Roenke the opportunities to score goals.
“The rest of the team works so hard to get us opportunities,” said Roenke.
Indian River’s next big opportunity may come when they square off with Caesar Rodney on Oct. 27. But the emphasis on that far-off game in no way means that they are looking past anyone, according to Roenke.
“Every game is important, because if we lose one we’re in second and two games, we drop again. And we know that if we come out and give it our best then we’ll have a good opportunity to get a better ranking,” said Roenke. “It’s a feeling that if you lose, then you lose a chance at the state tournament. And we can’t forget that.”
Indian River was set to travel to Lake Forest on Oct. 13 and host Poly Tech on Oct. 18. Both games were to start at 7 p.m.