Following the school record-setting season of 2019 — one in which the Indian River High School field hockey team posted a collective overall mark of 16-2 while earning a berth in the DIAA Division II state championship game — the Indians know that there is a bullseye squarely on their backs for this year.
After opening 2019 with 10 straight wins that included outscoring their opponents 51-11, they can certainly expect that teams have the circled their calendars with the date of their games against IR.
Most of the offensive firepower that helped lead the way to the most successful season in school history has graduated — Rylie Cordrey (now at Coker University), Avery Congleton (University of Mount Olive) and Kayler Townsend (Salisbury University) — while a pair of defensive anchors, Kay Hall (University of Delaware) and Morgan Bomhardt (Roanoke College) have also moved on to college.
“We are very excited to be able to participate in a fall season,” said head coach Jodi Stone, who is back for her eighth season leading the program. “Although we have lost several key players due to graduation, our underclassmen players are a strong group that have really stepped up their game to fill those positions. We have a strong defensive presence with leadership from our senior goalkeeper, and we also have seniors leading us in the midfield.”
That senior goalie Stone alluded to is Allyson Clark. She has been starting between the pipes for the past three or four seasons. She is more than prepared for the pressure-cooker situations of this season. Clark will get the chance to help groom freshman newcomer Alex Davidson this year as well.
The offense will feature two players who have seen quite a bit of time on the varsity stage in their first two years, with juniors Brynn McCabe and Emma Ruley on the attack. Sophomore Kinsley Hall is a player to keep an eye on this season as well.
Senior co-captains Jess Rybicki and Morgan McGee will lead the charges from the midfield, with classmate Drew Szlasa also there to provide leadership from the midfield. Savannah O’Shields (a senior) and Sam Derickson (a junior) will be the main cogs on the back end of the defense.
Freshmen Grace Robinson and Macy Blades are a pair of key newcomers who will likely see time in the offensive zone on the attack.
While trying to replace all of the scoring and senior stalwarts from a year ago, this year’s Indians team — like everyone else in the state — has had to figure out how to prepare for a season with new protocols in place due to COVID-19. On top of that, they’ve had their season start date flipped from possibly not playing, to February, and now back to here-and-now.
“As far as the delay to the start of the season, it hasn’t had as much of an effect on us as we thought,” admitted Stone. “Players arrived eager and ready to face the challenges that were placed before them. They have been very adaptable during this process, and we are very fortunate to be able to participate in a fall field hockey season.
“The things that we have had to change to prepare for our season are wearing masks, social distancing, and all of the new safety guidelines as they pertain to COVID-19. Our approach is to adhere to all of the new protocols, while incorporating our coaching styles with what we have done in the past, so that we can provide a smooth transition for our players.”
Stone’s coaching staff will include Molly Chamberlin, Pativa Cathell, Krista Littleton and Allie Whitcraft.
The Indians will face a tough six-game stretch to open the season, with five of those first six coming on the road. They will travel to Polytech for their first game on Tuesday, Oct. 20. IR will then hit the road to Sussex Academy on Thursday, Oct. 22, and Monday, Oct. 26. All games at 4 p.m.
The home opener will come on Tuesday, Oct. 27, when they host Smyrna at 4 p.m. A rematch of last year’s DIAA Division II state championship game will take place on Thursday, Oct. 29, against Delmar at 3 p.m. A date with Caesar Rodney on Monday, Nov. 2, wraps up things up. The game with CR — with a 5:30 p.m. start time — will not see any fans being admitted, but live game action will be available on the NFHS Network online.
“It’s going to be a short, quick season with only six weeks of games,” Stone wrapped up. “We’re up for the challenge, and we are looking forward to a competitive season.”