When faced with road contests against two of the best teams in the state perennially — both of which are defending state champions — a team can at least hope to battle for the entire game.
That’s exactly what happened for the Indian River High School field hockey team in last week’s two road contests, against Delmar on Oct. 4 and against Cape Henlopen on Oct. 9.
Delmar, the defending Division II state champions, flexed their proverbial field hockey muscle en route to a 12-1 win over the Indians. Despite the lopsided score, IR was able to see where they someday hope to have their young program.
The Tigers scored five goals in the first half, before adding seven more in second half. IR’s lone goal came off the stick of Mackenzie Wingate in the second half.
Delmar worked its way to 41 shots in the game and limited IR to just two. Sophomore Allyson Clark turned aside 26 shots in goal for IR.
Cape Henlopen, the defending Division I state champs, controlled the game by keeping the ball deep in the IR end for the bulk of the game, but the Indians’ defense was stellar in limiting their offensive chances.
“They’re a good team — you take your hat off and say, ‘Good game,’” head coach Jodi Stone said after the Cape game. “We did what we were capable of doing. We’re gonna build on this and move forward for the rest of the season. They’re a good team, and they’re solid. You still put your best foot forward, and do what you can.”
And Stone was not looking to use their youth and inexperience as an excuse, but more of an opportunity to help her senior-less team learn and grow.
“They’re young, and I hate to be using that as an excuse, but when you don’t have that experience,” Stone continued, “you don’t know what to expect or how to react. So it’s a learning process, and this is gonna be a learning year. You just gotta keep moving forward.
Those young players, Stone said, “are doing a fantastic job, and they are doing everything we are asking them to do. They’re stepping up, and they are hanging with some really skilled and talented teams.”
IR failed to register a shot on goal in the Cape game and managed to earn just one corner opportunity.
Meanwhile, the Vikings’ impressive stick-work and tremendous depth helped them pick up 19 shots and 11 corners in that game.
Clark again gave a yeoman’s effort making nine saves for the Indians.
The Indians — now 6-3 overall on the year — return home on Oct. 12 for a rare Friday-afternoon contest, taking on Holly Grove Christian School, out of Maryland. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. They have five more Henlopen Conference contests left before potentially, they hope, earning a berth in the state tournament.
How they perform down the stretch will go a long way in determining whether this season will continue to be a learning experience and whether the young Indians can take another step forward in their growth for the future.
By Jason Feather