The Indian River Indians varsity soccer team’s bid for a state championship ended Nov. 10, following a 3-2 semi-final loss to Caravel.
Both teams were well matched and played with matched intensity. But when Caravel scored at the two-minute mark, Indian River found themselves chasing the bus against a team that had played in the championship game the year before.
Caravel moved into Indian River’s half of the field to start the game and freshman Brock Niggebrugge put his team out in front 1-0 by poking in a loose ball inside the box.
Indian River answered 17 minutes later to briefly tie the score with support another freshman, Victor-Cuenca Aguilar, who played the ball up the midfield to Chris Conover for the goal.
Caravel’s senior captain Matt Oduaran scored an unassisted goal three minutes later, giving his team a 2-1 advantage that would last until Chandler Tulin extended. Tulin took the Buccaneers’ game to 3-1 off a corner kick in the 45th minute to start the second half.
“After they scored the first goal, we were definitely chasing, but it was a very balanced game,” Indians head coach Steve Kilby said.
Caravel edged out Indian River 7-6 in corner kicks and 9-7 in shots but made one more save (7-6) than the Bucs.
Caravel’s second goal counted despite controversy over whether a Buccaneers player intentionally tripped Indians defenseman Ethan Davis. The fall had enabled Oduaran to score in an empty net. Kilby expressed some disappointment in the referee for not making the call in the Indians’ favor but ended by saying “the game was officiated very well” in his opinion.
Indian River’s Peter Mais cut Caravel’s lead to 3-2 in the 66th minute and had a chance to tie the game on a penalty kick. But their comeback attempt fell short, due to a great save by keeper Jake Berry.
“Peter hit a real good shot, but Jake was able to get to it and make a really nice save,” Kilby said.
Heading into the game, Indian River’s confidence had been at its peak.
They had emerged victorious over Sussex Tech in the opening round after enduring 110 minutes of scoreless play and had tied the tough Caravel team earlier in the season at nil apiece.
“Our confidence was very high,” Kilby said. “There was no real intimidation factor. We knew what to expect and we played just as hard as they did. Unfortunately, they scored one more goal than we did.”
This year’s semi-final loss marks the third year in a row the Indians have failed to make it past the semi-finals.
Last year, Tatnall dropped Indian River 2-1 in triple overtime and Tower Hill ended their hopes by the same score — though in double overtime — in 2005. And though Indian River didn’t reach their goal of advancing past the semi-finals for a chance to win a state championship this year, Kilby is very optimistic about next year’s team.
“Our future is definitely bright,” Kilby said. “You hate to lose Ethan Davis, Luke Wingate and Sean Lewis, but we’re actually fortunate that we’re only losing three seniors. Next year, we’ll have seven to eight juniors that will be seniors that are very talented and experienced, combined with Jake Buchler (who will be a junior next year) and a great freshman class. So we’re looking at moving forward.”
But to do so, Kilby mentioned, his team will have to improve its play on the flanks.
“We had some pretty good speed, but we also had a lot of youth out on the flanks and some hadn’t been used to playing that position. And, if they continue to grow and mature, we’ll be a much different team next year,” he said.
Indian River (13-2-3) finished the season as winners of their fourth straight Southern Division title. They were neck and neck with Caesar Rodney for the Henlopen Conference championship.
Note: The Indian River soccer program is extending an invitation to all current and former Indians soccer players to participate in its annual co-ed alumni soccer game on Nov. 24. The game will be held at the John M. Clayton Soccer Field and will begin at 1 p.m. For additional information, contact Nick Slonin at (302) 344-0890 or by e-mail at email@example.com..