Perennially, Indian River’s varsity soccer team is one of the best in the Henlopen Conference. This year, it appears that they haven’t lost any of their potency, as they advanced to 3-0-1 to start the season, following a nil-nil tie against Dover on Sept. 13 and consecutive 3-0 wins over Archmere Academy and Polytech on Sept. 15 and 18, respectively.
Polytech (2-1) tried to limit Indian River’s scoring opportunities by replacing a forward with an extra defender. And though it did limit Indian River’s overall opportunities, the Panthers were unable to stem the Indians from scoring.
“What can I say?” Polytech head coach Paul Badidis asked rhetorically. “They’re the best team in the conference. We tried to stay close and we did our best — but they’re the best.
“If you pressure them and make a mistake, they’ll make you pay,” he added.
Indian River did make Polytech pay for shoving Jacob Buchler to the ground in the 26th minute of the game and were awarded a penalty shot, which Peter Mais scored easily, kicking the ball into the lower left corner of the goal from 12-yards out for the first of his two goals in the game.
Mais scored his and the team’s second goal almost as easily, having corralled a loose ball from about five yards away from the near post and lifted it over Polytech’s keeper, Frank Callahan.
The win over Polytech marked the third time in four games that Mais has scored two goals and led the team in scoring. And despite Polytech packing in the defenders, Indian River was able to muster 13 shots compared to two for the Panthers.
“We did a pretty good job with ball movement and keeping them on their toes. We need to be a little more proactive with shooting once we get in the box. We seem to look for the final perfect pass, as opposed to taking the shot,” Indians head coach Steve Kilby said.
And as it turned out, Polytech had only one serious shot on goal — one Lewis snared as a matter of routine. And their closest offensive opportunity came when Indian River’s Chris Conover tried to play a ball back to Lewis late in the second half, sending the ball deflecting off the near post and just a hair away from a Polytech goal.
Defensively, Indian River choked Polytech’s advance at every turn. Badadis had expected it, which is why he’d hoped to keep the game close with additional defensemen. But by rotating more players to the defense he limited his chances to score, especially against such a stout defense.
“No goals are a team objective. Luke Wingate, Ethan Davis, Jon Hardy, Chris Conover and Zach Izzo have taken that to heart. They are also pushing Harvey Webb and Holden Wingate to step up to that same objective as freshman,” Kilby said.
“Our defense is solid, real solid,” Mais said. “Plus, we have Sean Lewis, who’s one of the best [keepers] in the state.”
Of the three corner kicks Polytech had, Lewis snagged all three from the highest point possible and twice was able to throw it upfield to switch fields. In the 53rd minute, Lewis came way off his line to make a sliding save and quickly fired the ball upfield, which allowed freshman Aaron Ghert to score the team’s final goal on an assist from Cameron Travalini.
Indian River will resume conference play on Sept. 24 and 26, with a pair of games, against Sussex Central and Sussex Tech.