If this past Wednesday’s scrimmage was a foreshadowing of what’s to come for Indian River’s field hockey team, coach Julene Williamson shouldn’t have much concern. The Lady Indians shut out Stephen Decatur 8-0 in the pre-season face-off, showing an accelerated front line and a strong, sustainable defense. But the girls aren’t going into the season with their heads too high.
“We played really well,” Williamson told her team following the game, “but we need to go into the next one ready to play. We can’t expect to win like this every time. We need to bring our best.
Williamson, an IR alum, helped establish herself as a field hockey athlete, both at the high-school level and at Wesley College in Dover. After serving as assistant coach for Indian River’s varsity team last year, accompanying former coach Caitlin Harker, Williamson moved up to head coach and is wasting no time turning the program back around to where it needs to be.
The Lady Indians turned in a losing season last year, snuffing out their hopes in the conference and the state tournament.
This week’s performance, however, has convinced Williamson that the girls are fully capable of coming together and working as a unit.
“Today really helped me see that these girls really are a team,” she said, following the Decatur scrimmage. “They are working well together, talking and passing to each other out there. They’re really showing enthusiasm when they get out on the field.”
The camaraderie is a pleasing alternative to the headstrong teams of individuals in the past, she said.
“It’s nice to see them work together as a team,” said Williamson. “That’s something our program hasn’t really had in some of the past years.” The varsity players even stuck around this week, cheering on the JV as they took to the field.
While the varsity team displayed unselfishness and cooperation across the field, there is a noticeable talent throughout full range of the girls, too.
“We’re pretty strong from offense all the way down to the goalie,” Williamson added. “When our forwards have the ball, they’re working well with passing. The midfield is there to help with support, and our defense was there all the time, too. The girls are playing smart, from the freshmen, all the way to the seniors.”
The forward line, anchored by co-captain Morgan Sheats, kept the ball in the favorable third of the field for most of the game, making the most of 16 corners. “That’s a huge advantage to capitalize on those,” said Williamson.
The Lady Indians’ midfield ran smoothly under co-captain Molly Benner, while Lindsay McCabe helped organize the defense.
“It’s nice having a captain in each part of the field,” said Williamson. “It just happened to work itself out that way, but each runs their territory very well.”
Next Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Lady Indians will put their playing to the test as their season opens up, hosting Dover. Last year, the Lady Indians gave up a tie to the Lady Senators to start the season off, but Williamson is hoping her team shows the same ferocity they brought last Tuesday. Indian River, to say the least, will be tested with this year’s lineup.
“All of our conference games will be good games,” she said. “I understand that the girls’ minds are all over the place on the first day of school, but if we can play like this again, we will be alright.”
Leading up to the season’s start, she noted that the team will be working on speedy, in-game techniques, including setting up quickly for free hits and shooting on the move.
“I think we’re working well and things seem to be coming together,” she said. “We’re working on the skills we need, and I think we’ll be ready when Tuesday comes around.”
Indian River field hockey will square off against Dover at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at Indian River High School.