IR lax looks to finish strong for seniors after losses to Milford, Tech

Date Published: 
May 9, 2014

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Goalie Hayden McWilliams makes a save against Milford last Wednesday. The freshman has played like a seasoned veteran all year for the Indians.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Goalie Hayden McWilliams makes a save against Milford last Wednesday. The freshman has played like a seasoned veteran all year for the Indians.The Indian River High School lacrosse team saw their Henlopen South title hopes dashed last Wednesday, April 30, when they fell to Milford at home, 16-11.

Despite the game’s final score, the matchup remained close through the third quarter. But as the rain and wind picked up, so did the Buccaneers’ momentum — continuing their consistent scoring throughout the fourth as the Indians began to struggle to finish chances.

After going down 4-1 early, it was Indian River senior midfielder Merrick Kovatch who took it upon himself to spark the offense, dodging through multiple Milford defenders from up top and ripping a shot that would hit the post and bounce to senior attackman Spencer Murray, who then picked up the rebound and found the back of the net.

Kovatch would find Murray again shortly afterwards, that time on an intentional assist, to bring the Indians within one. Murray locked in the first-quarter hat-trick after another Milford score, with freshman midfielder George Martin dodging through what appeared to be the entire Bucs’ defense to bring IR back within one after Milford answered with another goal to maintain a one-goal lead at 6-5.

Senior midfielder Ben Gonski evened the score at six in the second quarter, but after Milford added back-to-back goals, the Indians would trail for the rest of the day.

With wet mesh, IR struggled to place shots throughout the fourth quarter — with the exception of Martin, who capitalized with a laser from up top on extra-man offense late in the game to make it 15-11. With four seconds remaining, the Bucs added another goal, running up the score to 16-11.

Murray ended the day with six goals and now leads the team with 20 on the season. A few of those scores came from Martin dodging from up top and finding the senior attackman open for the shot. Martin notched four assists to go along with his two goals in the matchup.

This, the team’s second loss to Milford on the year all but eliminates them from Henlopen South title contention.

With that in mind, the Indians traveled to face a more experienced and larger program at Sussex Tech on Friday, May 2, ending in a 15-2 loss after IR led 2-1 in the first quarter.

“They’ve had a program for a while,” said Coach Jerry Sheriden of the Tech program that has nearly as many varsity players as IR’s varsity and JV teams combined. “They’re an attack-based team. That’s where their strength is. Their midfielders are fast and get it down to the attackmen. They have good ball movement.”

The Indians struggled against what was undoubtedly one of the best defensive units that they’ve faced so far, shutting down midfielders including Kovatch, Gonski and Martin as they continued to try to spark the offense from up top.

According to Sheriden, who has seen a few of the Tech players in winter programs, the most problematic long-pole for the Indian offense was Tech junior Travis Quillin, who had two goals and two assists as a defenseman.

“They’ve got probably one of the best [long-poles] in the county,” Sheriden said. “He’s a dual threat, because every time he has the ball, he runs up the field and tries to score. And he did it twice today. Tough to stop that.”

Kovatch recorded the team’s only two goals on the day last Friday — one off the assist from Martin and the other from Gonski. The senior now has 29 points on the season (17 goals, 12 assists). Martin shares the exact same scoring numbers, as the freshman and senior midfielders jointly lead the team in points on the season.

“They collapse on the ball,” Sheriden said, describing how the Tech defense shut down the Indians’ most effective scoring weapons. “We need to work on some off-ball movement so that we have some opportunities when that happens, so we can move the ball a little bit more, get ourselves in a better scoring position.”

The loss dropped the Indians to 6-5 on the season, but they improved to 7-5 with a forfeit win against Woodbridge from play scheduled for Wednesday, May 7. Woodbridge has had to cancel their 2014 season.

With three games remaining, all at home, the Indians will look to finish strong for their 15 graduating seniors.

“We’ve got a lot of seniors, so it’s basically ‘play for the love of the game’ at this point,” said Sheriden. “Be competitive and play hard — leave it all on the field.”

The Indians will face Dover on Friday, May 9, at 5:30 p.m. and Sussex Central for senior night on Tuesday, May 13, at 7 p.m. before finishing the season against South rival Delmar on Thursday, May 15. All of those games will be played at Indian River High School.