Goal remains the same for CR — win school’s first girls soccer title

CAMDEN — This group of Caesar Rodney High seniors is three-for-three in reaching the Division I state finals.

Of course, the Riders are also three-for-three in losing to Padua once they reach the girls’ soccer championship game.

It has left CR’s veteran players feeling a mix of both frustration and motivation.

“It’s a little bit of both,” said senior Julia Lyncha. “It’s kind of discouraging knowing that we can’t beat the same team every year. But, at the same, we still want to go after them.”

So the goal remains the same for this year’s Riders — winning the program’s first state crown.

But many of the faces have definitely changed from the squad that went 17-2 for CR last spring. The Riders are missing seven starters from a team whose only two losses were to the Pandas.

The challenge for coach Darrell Gravatt is mixing in some talented newcomers with a small nucleus of veterans.

The Riders (2-0) should have a better idea of where they stand after today’s 6 p.m. showdown at perennial Henlopen South power Indian River (1-0). CR won a pair of one-goal decisions over the Indians last year.

Returning veteran Tori Sebastian, left, is one of three CR seniors who were second-team All-Henlopen North selections a year ago. (Delaware State News file photo)

“We’d like to reload, if possible,” said Gravatt. “I don’t know, we’ll find out. It remains to be seen.

“There’s a lot of people without playing time in games. It’s taken a while for us to try to figure out as coaches where everyone belongs. I think we’re still a work in progress. We’re going to find out some things.”

CR has some of its most difficult regular-seasons tests right off the bat. After IR, the Riders host Padua next Monday (at Kent County’s Delaware Turf Sports Complex) before facing a road game at Wilmington Charter on April 13.

Some of the returning veterans include Lyncha, goalie Marianna Nuzzo and Tori Sebastian. The three seniors were second-team All-Henlopen North selections a year ago.

CR thought it would be able to add first-team All-North forward Lynsi Gruwell to that group. But the senior is sidelined, at least for now, with a knee injury she suffered in the off-season.

“I’ve been playing with her since like sixth grade,” said Sebastian. “So losing that bond on the field is pretty tough.

CR sophomore Jessie Prillaman was a first-team All-North selections last season. (Delaware State News file photo)

“On the field, the rest of us have to step up a lot and try to get our young players where they need to be. … The main part for us, I think, is keeping our composure during those big games. It’s something they’re not used to. Just talking them through it is going to help us.”

With Gruwell out, the Riders’ offense is now being led by sophomores Jessie Prillaman and Macy Ramsey. Prillaman and junior midfielder Kimmy Glasser were both first-team All-North selections last season.

In CR’s first two games, Ramsey (7 goals, 4 assists), Prillaman (6 goals, 4 assists) and sophomore Laynee Ford (3 goals, 2 assists) have accounted for all but one of the Riders’ 17 goals.

“We definitely have a lot to work on,” said Lyncha. “We lost a lot of players last year but we also gained a lot. I know a couple teams already think they have one up on us because we lost a couple players.

“Right when the season started, there were a lot of holes. There were only a couple players we knew would play those positions. I was a little worried but we’ve looked pretty good so far. We’re connecting as a team.”

Of course, the Riders still have a few months to figure it all out.

Darrell Gravatt

CR’s main goal is to be playing its best when the DIAA state tournament starts. After three straight trips to the state title game, the Riders seniors would like one more shot at it.

“I think it’s definitely an accomplishment to make it there — especially three years in a row,” said Sebastian. “Losing is hard but it just makes us a lot more hungry to get it the next year.”

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