Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, successful athletic programs aren’t built in one season. Indian River High School seniors Isabelle Huovinen and Sarah Hickman, captains of the IRHS field hockey team, understand that.
Despite ending their season with a 1-11 record, similar to that of recent years, the girls see positive change under first-year head coach Jodi Stone that they believe will inevitably turn the program around.
“A lot of the games this year were so close,” Huovinen recalled. “We weren’t losing like when we were freshmen.”
That progress could be seen against teams including Polytech, which has dominated the Indians in field hockey for years. In 2012, the Panthers handed IR their worst loss of the season, in a 9-0 shutout. This year, the Stone-led squad was clearly more competitive, narrowing the margin to just two goals.
“They came out, and you could tell they weren’t trying,” Huovinen explained of the Panthers’ apparent mistaken expectations heading into the matchup this year. “We started to [beat them up] a little bit. We were going to make them run for it.”
While the girls were able to keep most games close this season, they were also able to put together an impressive victory against Sussex Central on Sept. 17. Junior Sarah Buchler led the Indians with three goals during that game, to beat the Golden Knights 6-0.
“They’re a rival for us.” Huovinen explained. “For us to beat them was exciting. It was a good moment.”
Huovinen and Hickman expressed their excitement for the future of the program, not only because of Stone’s influence, but because of this year’s talented freshman class.
“The freshmen are ready to rumble,” Hickman said.
“You can just tell that they have that fire,” Huovinen chimed in. “When these freshman now are seniors, I think they’re going to dominate.”
Both girls agreed that Stone and the current coaching staff have a wealth of knowledge that the younger girls need to focus on and utilize, calling upon future leaders including now-junior Sarah Buchler to lead the charge.
“There’s never a day where she just goes through the motions,” Hickman commended of Buchler’s commitment to the sport. “Every single game, she is 100 percent full-throttle. She’s everywhere [on the field].”
While Buchler will lead the offense next season, current sophomore goalie Madie Thune will be expected to step up and replace Hickman in the cage. Thune did see some action this past season, and the girls have no doubts that she will be able to handle a starting role.
For Huovinen and Hickman, the goal isn’t only to be able to compete with the others teams on the field but to obtain a level of success similar to that of other fall sports, such as football and soccer.
“We want to be a contender,” Hickman stated after explaining the frustration of the team’s consistent struggles.
Even though they’re moving on and heading to college, both girls said they are excited to see what Stone has in store for upcoming classes.
“If they focus and listen to what [the coaching staff] has to say, I’m excited to see what they’re going to come up with,” Huovinen said, looking ahead to future years. “I wish I was still in middle school so I could be there [when it turns around]. I want them to take everything that they have and put it into the sport.”
Hickman said she thinks that team unity will be key to next year’s success.
“We’re all one family,” she claimed. “We cheer for each other, and we’re all one team. It sets the standard.”