IRHS field hockey aims to build on strengths

After three games, the Indian River Lady Indians varsity field hockey team is still searching for its first win.

field hockey 9.21: Jenna McKone hustles to clear a loose ball near the Indians’ goal. Coastal Point • RUSLANA LAMBERT

Jenna McKone hustles to clear a loose ball near the Indians’ goal.

They lost to Seaford 3-2 on Sept. 13 but have also played well enough defensively to have a chance to win in overtime in their other two games. The Lady Indians (0-2-1) tied the Dover Lady Senators 0-0 in their season-opener but then lost 1-0 to Milford’s Lady Buccaneer’s (3-0) in overtime on Sept. 18 — partly because they failed to execute their game plan, according to head coach Caitlin Harker.

“As a team, when we commit to doing the smaller things and stick to our game plan we’re a very good team,” Harker said. “We had moments of brilliance, but moments don’t equal up to a great game.”

The Lady Indians held Milford’s potent offense at bay and in-check for both periods but seem to fall apart in the 10-minute overtime period. That Milford offense has scored 11 goals in their first three games of the season, while an equally potent Milford defense has given up only one, in their 4-1 win over Laurel earlier this season.

Indian River held possession in Milford’s half of the field to start the overtime period but was unable to muster much of an offensive opportunity in that time. After a change of possession, Milford’s offense aggressively swarmed Indian River’s circle. Four minutes in, Lindsay McCabe cleared the ball from an exposed net, following a Buchler save, to give her team a fighting chance. But shortly thereafter, Milford sophomore Nikki Parsley split the defense inside the circle and punched in the winning goal with 4:15 left on the clock.

Lady Bucs’ head coach Bonnie Simon credited the win to her players’ feel for the game. Four of the seven players she sent out in overtime were either freshmen or sophomores, and despite their relative inexperience at the high school level, they were able to negotiate the field and put themselves in a position to win the game.

“They’re the kind of kids you want to have on your team,” Simon said. “They are very skilled and understand how to play the game in space.”

Along with Parsley, whose game-winning goal marked her fifth thus far this season, Simon noted Sara Arthur and Koboleski as key contributors in the win over the Lady Indians.

“Those three understand space and how to use it to their advantage,” she said.

Of Parsley, Simon said: “She’s a tough kid. She doesn’t like to lose in one-on-one and she doesn’t like to lose in the goal either.”

IRHS’ Harker mentioned that, though they’ve yet to win their first game, a number of the Lady Indians players distinguished themselves and that their performance will serve as a valuable building block for the remainder of the season.

“I was very pleased with how our defense played,” Harker said. “Abi [Buchler] played a great game and defensively Kaitlin Binsted and Lindsay McCabe also played very well.”

And, though they haven’t won yet, Harker was optimistic that with three consecutive days of practice without a game could remedy the Lady Indians’ woes.

“Anytime you walk away from an overtime game or a close game, obviously you hope to walk away with a lesson. There are things that you did well and some things that you didn’t. Every game is a learning situation,” she said. “But we’re fortunate to have three days of practice to work on our weaknesses and build on our strengths.”

Harker’s main point of emphasis leading up to their game against Delmar tomorrow, Sept. 22, is to get better at moving off the ball and committing to the short pass.

“One of our biggest problems right now is that we’re not moving onto the ball and haven’t committed to making the small pass,” she said. “But it’s a building process and we’ll get better with time.”

Indian River will host Delmar on Saturday, Sept. 22, at 1 p.m. with the junior varsity game following directly thereafter. The Lady Indians will round out the month of September with another home game, this time against perennial powerhouse Cape Henlopen, and then an away game against Laurel.