Dover’s Hickox got a lot out of Padua career

Dover native Riley Hickox (6) helped Padua win a pair of Division I state titles in girls’ soccer. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

LEWES — So much was riding on that one play.

Dover High and Padua were deadlocked in a scoreless tie in the DIAA Division I field hockey semifinals last November.

The Pandas’ Riley Hickox just remembers something her teammate, Anna Getty, said before they attempted a penalty corner in overtime.
“She said, ‘I’m going to pass it to you and you’re going to score,’” said Hickox.

Naturally, Hickox’s shot went in, giving Padua a dramatic 1-0 victory over the Senators and a ticket to the state finals.

“It was crazy,” she said. “Immediately my whole team stormed the field. It was one of those moments that you remember forever.

“There was obviously that history there,” said Hickox. “I mean, it was exciting to win for my school. And it was kind of cool — I knew most of the people on the field.”

Hickox might not be exaggerating, either.

A Dover native, she grew up in the Capital School District, playing both field hockey and soccer for Central Middle School. She was a former teammate of many of the Senators.

Now a senior, Hickox was hoping to put the finishing touches on her high school career by helping the Pandas win a third-straight DIAA Division I girls’ soccer state title.

Even without this spring season, however, Hickox had a pretty impressive athletic career.

She was a three-time All-Stater in field hockey, making first team in each of her last two seasons as Padua reached the Division I state finals twice. Hickox was also a second-team All-State selection in girls’ soccer last spring.

In her second year as a team captain, interim head coach Matthew Sturdivant said Hickox was one of the backbones in the Pandas’ two-year run as Division I state champions in soccer. Padua went 31-4 in the last two seasons.

“She was just like a rock in the back,” said Sturdivant, who had been an assistant coach the past two seasons. “She just had this attitude like, ‘Nobody’s going to get by me.’ Strikers have that attitude like ‘I want to score a goal.’ She was the complete opposite.

“She never wanted to get a goal scored against her. Even if we were up 7-0 and we had one goal scored against us, she would be upset about that one goal. She definitely flew under the radar because of how solid of a team we were the past couple years. But, when we were in big games, she was a huge part of that.”

One of Hickox’s few goals in soccer was a big one, coming in a 2-1 win over Caesar Rodney in 2018.

“There were moments when she could take over a game,” said Sturdivant. “But, for the most part, she was a very subtle player.”

Hickox came a long way from her freshman year. Coming from fairly far away, she felt like she had to re-establish herself when she first got to Padua.

“You’re really nervous,” she said. “You’re going into these acclaimed athletic programs. You’ve heard about them.

“You go to tryouts and you’re really scared. You want to make sure that you can stack up to their caliber to play on their teams. I definitely think I worked harder my freshman year than I had any years before that.”

Hickox, whose older brother, Jared, was a baseball player at Dover High, ended up making the rosters of both squads in her first year.
Of course, making the ride to Wilmington every morning wasn’t easy, either.

Hickox, along with teammate Grace Mercer, got up every morning at 5:45 a.m. for the hour-and-a-half busride to Padua. Even when they started driving the last couple years, the pair still left at 6 a.m.

Mercer, who is also from Dover and played both field hockey and soccer, and Hickox then stayed after school several hours for practice. Hickox and her family just recently moved to Lewes.

“When you have practices after school every day,” said Hickox, “and then some days you have double practices for club, and then on top of homework, it’s lot of super late nights and really early mornings.

“Honestly, it was just one of those things we’re you’re happy to be at school. I really value all the friends I’ve made through field hockey and soccer. It was kind of one of those things you look forward to every day so, the drive, it was worth it.”

This will probably be the end of her varsity playing career for Hickox. She’s headed for the University of South Carolina in the fall, where’s she’s going to major in public health.

The 18-year-old is thinking of becoming an occupational therapist.

Sturdivant said Hickox is definitely talented enough to play soccer at the college level. He was hoping another good season this spring might change her mind about playing at the next level.

Hickox said she’ll definitely miss playing. She first started playing soccer with the Central Delaware Soccer Association when she was only four or five.

“I’ve learned so much through these different teams and created bonds that will last a lifetime,” she said. “I mean it’s more than just the sport. … (But) it was the biggest part of my life for basically all my life.”