Indians soccer rebuilds defense

Just over a week lies between the Indian River soccer team and a new season, where head coach Steve Kilby and his squad will look to make the most of their year, and, hopefully, advance past the second round of the state tournament.

Finishing 12-1-3 last fall, with their only season loss coming in a mid-schedule bout against Newark, the Indians rolled through the conference, but fell short against Caravel, 3-2, at states. Practices, scrimmages and play days have prepared the team as the backfield starts to fill out.

In their senior year, defenseman Ethan Davis, center-back Luke Wingate and goalkeeper Sean Lewis helped anchor last season’s team.

“They were all real key players for us,” said Kilby, but he’s hoping for little relapse as 5-foot, 11-inch sophomore Kevin Rowe moves into the position between the posts. “He has a lot of club experience and Olympic development,” he added. “He’s as good a keeper as you’re going to find in our conference.”

Junior Jake Buchler, recovering from a mild ankle sprain, will be returning to the pitch at center-back, picking up where Wingate left off.

The Indians hosted a play day last Thursday, testing their youthful skill against a number of teams, before heading to Kirkwood for a preseason invitational. A scrimmage earlier this week against Hodgson Vo-Tech will be the last test before a two-week gap in the schedule readies the team for the season.

“We’re using this time to fill out the roster,” said Kilby, now in his fifth year coaching the boys’ varsity team.

Doubling his experience and knowledge to the game, Kilby is also the coach for Indian River’s girls’ varsity soccer team, and the director of coaching at the River Soccer Club in Roxana. Many of the varsity players have devoted their time on club teams with the River Soccer program.

“It’s nice,” said Kilby, “because I can make sure they get the training they need. I’ve been watching a lot of these guys play for years now, and most of them have played with each other.”

By the Indians’ season opener, hosting Cape Henlopen on Sept. 9, Kilby expects to be equipped with 18 or so athletes on the roster. With five seniors and a handful of juniors, the team is still a young one.

“We have a boatload of sophomores,” said Kilby, “and, last year, we had six or seven freshmen playing on our varsity team. That’s really helped them get ready for this year, and they’re only going to improve.”

Last year, the Indians started their season off with a 3-0 victory over Cape, but Kilby insists they need to come out strong, early.

“Cape had a winning record last year,” he said. “They just missed the tournament, and I imagine they’re stronger this year. It will be a nice measuring stick to see where we stand on the season.”

Kilby’s got his eyes set on the year.

“I hope to win overall conference,” he said. “That really needs to be a minimum for this group. I also have to believe this team can win two or three games in the tournament, as opposed to making it only to the second round. With a little bit of luck and no major injuries, we will just have to see what happens.”