IR lax makes first DIAA playoff appearance
With back-to-back wins against Dover and Sussex Central, the Indian River High School lacrosse team still had a good chance of making the DIAA state playoffs in their first official varsity season, but the achievement didn’t come easily for the Indians.
After falling behind in the second quarter against Henlopen South champion Delmar on Thursday, May 15, the Tribe struggled to regain momentum and went on to lose 13-6 in their final regular-season matchup.
“In the second and third quarters, we tend to lose our momentum, for one reason or another,” said senior defenseman H.F. Wilgus regarding the season trend.
“We were all pumped up and then, after they scored and scored again and started getting ahead, we just lost the momentum,” senior defenseman Tristan Smyth added.
Smyth has been sidelined since the team’s first meeting with Delmar, on Wednesday, April 16, when he went down with a season-ending ACL injury.
“I want to play. I want to be out there. I want to help, and help the team succeed,” Smyth said, noting his frustration at not being able to play in the second half of the season.
The Indians struck first in the May 15 matchup, when junior attackman Sebastian Velasquez notched his first career varsity goal off his first career varsity shot, to make it 1-0. Velasquez was called up after playing on the JV squad this year, to fill the empty roster spot that resulted from senior midfielder Merrick Kovatch’s season-ending injury suffered in the previous matchup.
“It was definitely a change, but it’s a team effort,” said senior midfielder Devin Burke on playing without one of the team’s main leaders and offensive weapons.
The Wildcats would go on to tie the game at 1-1, with the lead changing goal by goal throughout the first quarter, ending in a 3-3 tie after scores from senior attackman Spencer Murray and senior midfielder Tim Roberts.
The Indians would struggle to get back in the game for the next three quarters, despite an impressive performance from freshman goalie Hayden McWilliams, who racked up 21 saves in the effort.
Murray would add another goal before the end of the game, with freshman midfielder George Martin managing two more scores before the game’s final whistle.
The loss dropped the Indians to 9-6 on the season, which was still enough to earn them the No. 14 seed in this year’s DIAA state playoffs — the first-ever playoff appearance for the program in just their second year competing at the varsity level.
While they certainly took a major step in furthering Indian River lacrosse, the Indians struggled to compete against No. 3 St. Mark’s in a 24-2 loss.
“Usually, it’s just Cape and Tech, so for us to be [in the playoffs] the first time around, that’s kind of a big deal, in my opinion,” said Wilgus.
“We obviously want to win, but we’re going to try our best,” said Burke prior to the game. “It’s a big step for the IR program.”