Kilby, Indians kick off season at Prep Friday, look to defend state title
Head coach Steve Kilby and the Indian River High School soccer team will have a few streaks to defend this season, looking for not only their seventh consecutive conference championship, but another state championship, as well, after the team made history with their first ever DIAA title last season.
However, after graduating eight seniors from last year’s roster, the Indians will have to do so behind the leadership of a few key returners and a youth infusion from some talented incoming freshmen.
One of the most crucial roles that needed to be filled was in the goal, with All-State keeper Sam Cannon now playing at Lynchburg College. Kilby said this week that junior goalie Ian Walls was adjusting well to his new starting role.
“Ian’s looking very solid. We’ve been fortunate to have a legacy of goalkeepers at Indian River, and I think Ian’s gonna fit that role,” Kilby said. “He got in some big minutes in the conference championship game, and he played in several games for us last year.”
In the field, the Indians will rely on three returning All-State seniors and captains: midfielder Luis Cruz, midfielder Danny Garza and defender Sean Whelen.
“Luis is healthy. We’re kind of looking for him to play a big role in the central midfield, get him forward when we need to,” Kilby explained.
Cruz is coming off a junior campaign in which an injury had him out for several games in the middle of the season but he was still able to collect First Team All-State honors.
He’ll be joined by sophomore midfielder and captain Mac Smith, as well as his cousin and incoming freshman midfielder Oscar Cruz and freshman Edgardo “Gardo” Velasquez.
“We’ve got Gardo and Mac Smith, who we can push through in a central mid role if we need to get Luis in the attack. That will help us,” said Kilby. “Edgardo is a freshman, very talented. Oscar Cruz — we’re looking to play him up top and expect some big things out of him.”
Coming off a strong showing in the pre-season, the Indians will be put to the test early, facing 2013 DIAA Division I Champion Salesianum and Henlopen rival Caesar Rodney within the first three games on the schedule.
“It’ll certainly be a test. There’s nothing like jumping into the deep end of the pool to start the season,” Kilby said of the high level of competition. “This team’s strength is gonna be at the speed of which we play and the technical ability that it has, so we’ll see how those attributes match up against those teams.”
Last season, the Indians fell to Sallies 1-0 on the road to start the season, but they took down Caesar Rodney twice, by the same score of 2-1 — once during the regular season and once to lock in their sixth consecutive Henlopen Conference title.
Before those matchups, however, they’ll start the season on the road, this Friday night at Worcester Prep at 4 p.m. For live scoring updates on the game, follow @CPointSports on Twitter, and @CoastalPoint on Instagram for photos after the game.