Indian River soccer looks to plug gaps and repeat success on the pitch
There is little room for improvement on the record of last year’s Indian River boys’ varsity soccer team, which went 13-1-1 on the season but was stopped short by Caravel Academy in the state semifinals. After losing 12 players from last year’s squad, though, head coach Steve Kilby has more than enough on his plate before the fall season gets under way.
Players including Caleb Buchler, Victor Cuecna-Aguilar, Ross Beauchamp, Andrew Kleinstuber, Holden Wingate, Nick Izzo, Josh Webb, Smith Purdum and Mac Gray were dominating forces on the roster during last year’s stellar showing.
“We’ve had some big names leave us this year,” Kilby noted. “Defensively, Wingate and Gray played huge roles as our center backs. Our defense only gave up five goals last year. Those two were like a brick wall, and anything that slipped by them was handled by Kevin [Rowe].”
Rowe, the team’s former co-captain and goalkeeper is also on the list of seniors who departed with last year’s squad.
“We’re looking to solve those defensive problems,” said Kilby. “Guys like Sam Izzo and Danny Hull or a Loca Linden can really help us out in the back.”
As for the man between the posts, Sam Cannon and Luis Granados will likely be vying for Rowe’s position.
“Sam Cannon has a lot of ODP experience,” explained Kilby, referencing the Olympic Development Program, “and Luis is extremely athletic. We’ll have to see who wins that battle for starting position as keeper.”
Kilby has recognized returning veteran players Collier Donald, Josh Mercer and junior Danny Seeley as the team’s captains, who will aim to help bring back a near-perfect season – or better – to Indian River.
“We have a fairly strong team this year,” said Mercer. “We’ve got young players with a lot of talent. We’re pretty solid. I think we’re as good as anyone else out there. We just have to want it more.”
“We’ve just got to work on playing together,” said Seeley. “Our practices are really focusing on our team chemistry.”
This Saturday, Aug. 20, the team will head up to Kirkwood Soccer Complex for a scrimmage play day, along with 33 other regional teams.
“This weekend,” said Kilby, “I’m really looking to tweak some spots around. I want to see how our guys look in different positions. We need to figure out how some of these young guys will handle the physicality of playing varsity soccer. It’s definitely more aggressive than what some of them have seen. You can get match-ups between players with a two- to three-year age difference.”
Next week, on Wednesday, Aug. 24, the Indians will play the role of host team during the Indian River Soccer Play Day at River Soccer Club in Roxana.
“Our preseason is really going to focus on evaluating players,” said Kilby. “We’re not circling games on the schedule yet. I want to see how our guys play under different opponents and evaluate them.”
And, fortunately, he said, he has help for that, too.
“I’ve got a really good coaching staff to help me out,” he said. “Brant Mais, Nick Slonin and Justin Brooks-Ward are great assistant coaches. They all have a lot of experience in the sport. I can bounce ideas off of them, and they throw them back at me.”
With such an impressive showing last season, Kilby said the team will have to work hard to maintain that level and repeat a deep-playoff showing.
“The bar is set high,” he said. “We are going to have to overcome youth and inexperience and see how quickly these young guys can grow into a major role on a competitive team. If we can solve some of those problems, we’ll see where they take us.”
The Indians will open their regular season at Salesianum High School on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 2 p.m.