IR soccer starts the season right, 3-0 over Cape

Dreary weather couldn’t hold off the Indians on the pitch as they rallied a 3-0 win under the lights this past Tuesday against Cape Henlopen to start the 2008 soccer season. Then again, when you outshoot your opponent 24 to 3, good things are bound to happen.

Special to the Coastal Point • Ted Mathias: The Cape goalie makes a save during Indian River’s 3-0 win in the season-opener.Special to the Coastal Point • Ted Mathias
The Cape goalie makes a save during Indian River’s 3-0 win in the season-opener.

Defending a 12-1-3 record from last year, the Indians came out with gusto and ferocity. Zach Izzo found fellow co-captain Chris Connover through the air, and Connover headed in the first goal of the year off a free kick in the 26th minute.

A resilient Cape offense kept the game alive for the remainder of the first half, as David Mesquita threatened to tie up the board with a penalty kick. Steady concentration and collected skill from sophomore keeper Kevin Rowe solidified the shutout for the Indians.

“I kept telling myself not to let these older guys down,” said Rowe after his varsity debut.

He proved himself as a dependable goalkeeper in Tuesday’s match, something he was wary of, stepping in to replace 2008 graduate goalie Sean Lewis.

“I needed to stay focused and keep the ball out of the net. I learned a lot from what Sean [Lewis] brought to the team last year,” Rowe said.

Slippery conditions kept Rowe on his toes.

“I just had to make sure I was ready tonight,” he added. “When it’s slick like this, you have to remember to get your body in front of the ball.”

Forward Victor Cuenca-Aguilar managed to bury two more for River in the second half before the final whistle blew.

“I just wanted to get the ball to the net,” he said with a grin. “When our defense pushed it out, I kept it up at our goal.”

He moved swiftly off a break-away from Izzo in the 69th minute to register a goal before scoring again, three minutes later, off a through-ball from co-captain Cameron Travalini.

The young team, comprising primarily sophomores, is coming together, according to the captains.

“We’re staying positive as a team,” said Connover. “A lot of us have been playing together for a long time, and we know where each other is going to be and where they’ll put the ball.”

He and Izzo hooked up for at least eight goals, he noted, through last year’s season.

“As the leading seniors on the team,” Izzo stated, “you have to make sure the team is doing their jobs. Some of us have even played with a few of the guys from Cape Henlopen on rec teams, longer than we’ve been with guys on our own varsity. We just have to work together and help each other out.”

Indian River head coach Steve Kilby was rightfully pleased with his team’s organization and possession throughout the game.

“We did a nice job of controlling the midfield and play,” he said. “Cape had two shots in the course of play all game [excluding the penalty kick], and that’s what we need to keep bringing. The main thing was we needed to pace the Cape Henlopen team. We had to have one of our defensive mids ready for the counter attack. I knew we could get Victor, Cameron or Peter [Mais] there with their speed. We’re a quick team.” Mais rounds out the quartet of senior captains for IR’s varsity this year.

As director of coaches at the River Soccer Club in Roxana, Kilby has worked with the athletes from early stages, preparing him for their advancement onto the high-school team.

“I’m fortunate to have guys with experience,” he said. “I coached these kids when they were 10 or 11, and their play is very smart. They learned the system, and when we play three in the back, the guys know they have to drop back.”

The way his mids and forwards came together Tuesday night convinced Kilby that his team could very easily recapture the conference title.

“Everyone’s doing what they need to,” he said. “Victor sat back from the defenders, collected the ball and got by them at pace from great assists. [Cameron] Travalini and Zach [Izzo] do a great job of finding Peter Mais, who directs our attack. He’s like the orchestra leader. He moves the ball around very well.”

Following the win Tuesday night, IR’s coaching staff encouraged the players to enjoy the victory but to come back ready to play by Thursday, as they traveled to Dover.

“We’re starting our season with two strong opponents,” noted Kilby. “That’s a good thing. It lets us know where our conditioning is and what we’ve been practicing for. Hopefully, it sets the tone for the rest of the year.”

Indian River headed to Dover on Thursday (after Coastal Point press deadline) and will square off against Archmere Academy on Saturday at 1 p.m., before returning home to host Polytech on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m.