It has been a tough couple of seasons for Indian River’s varsity field hockey team, but with a new face on the sidelines and a transformation in the team’s attitude, the Lady Indians this season just might have what it takes to turn things around and set their sights on the Henlopen South.
The bar is set relatively low for first-year head coach Katie Holloway, as last year’s team went 1-11-3 on the season.
“For us,” said Holloway, “it’s back to the basics. Once they get that down, we can go on to the next level.”
But they’ll have to do that without some key players. This past spring’s graduating class included goalie Erin Brenan, as well as attackers Tiffany Roughton, Haley Winward and Chelsea Zweigle. “Fortunately,” Holloway added, “the girls play beautiful, clean hockey. I’m really amazed at how clean their play is.”
As the first week of practice got under way this week, Holloway and assistant coach Whitney McMillon were moving players around, trying to find the best fit for the returning players and underclassmen stepping up. A scrimmage earlier this week against James M. Bennett High School gave the coaching staff insight into the girls’ poise in a game situation, too.
“I saw a lot of dominance from our girls in that scrimmage,” said Holloway. “Their heart was there, and the desire to win was there. They didn’t give up all game long. The basics that we’re looking for are definitely coming along.”
Despite losing a number of starters, there are still plenty of familiar faces bringing their talents back to the team.
“There are a lot of returning players,” said Halloway, “and everyone is stepping into leadership roles. Each person on this team is a leader for somebody else.”
As a field hockey goalie, Holloway’s hunt to replace Brenan in her spot in the cage has developed into a tricky one. With the final roster being yet to be filled out, junior Amy Mitchell and sophomore Sarah Hickman are in the running as the Lady Indians’ last line of defense.
“One of them is a very technical goalie,” said Holloway, who has played the sport for the last 15 years, from middle- and high-school teams to recreational leagues, “and one is very reactive. It’s interesting to see how they handle different situations when they’re playing. As you know, field hockey’s not a clear-cut sport, but both are doing very well.”
McMillon helps to bring her offensive skills to the field, allowing the coaches to provide a balance of perspective on the game.
And they’ll have to progress rather quickly, via a Polytech play day, set for Saturday, Aug. 27, at 8 a.m. A final preseason scrimmage against Stephen Decatur will provide Holloway one last look at the team before the regular season gets under way versus Sussex Central on Tuesday, Sept. 13. In her past coaching experience, Holloway took the helm of Sussex Central’s indoor field hockey team, which will result in matching up some of her former players against her new team in the season debut.
Teams including Cape Henlopen and Sussex Tech are likely to test the Lady Indians later this season, but, for now, Holloway said she’s just taking it slow.
“These schools are known widely for their field hockey programs,” said Holloway. “All we can do now, though, is plan for the best but take each game one at a time.”
The Indian River Field Hockey team will begin its regular season on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. at Sussex Central.