Indian River continues hot start in field hockey

Avery Congleton

DAGSBORO – When Jodi Stone was first hired as the Indian River High field hockey coach, she referred to the program as “the quiet storm.”

With Tuesday afternoon’s 4-1 win over Caravel Academy, the Indian River squad remained unbeaten.

And yet, even while sitting at 8-0 on the season, the Indians have seemingly flown under the radar through the first month.

“That’s OK,” said Stone. “When I first obtained this position, I called us ‘the quiet storm.’ It’s OK to fly under the radar every once in a while. The storm is kind of waking up, because we didn’t have any seniors last year, so we have all returning players.”

Avery Congleton, one of just the four seniors on this year’s squad, led the scoring with a pair of goals in IR’s nonconference win over the Buccaneers (5-4).

The win avenges last year’s DIAA Division II state tournament loss to the second-seeded Bucs. The score of the Nov. 10 quarterfinal showdown was also 4-1.

Junior Kayler Townsend and senior Rylie Cordrey added one goal each, while sophomore Emma Ruley registered a pair of assists. Townsend and senior Kaylee Hall recorded one assist each.

The Indians came close to registering its second shutout of the season, but Alice Pifferi broke up the bid with a goal on a penalty corner as time expired. Bucs’ Madelynne Dalton earned the assist.

“The defense really stepped it up today,” said Congleton. “They always exceed our standards, but they really managed to get the ball wide instead of in the middle.

“Savannah O’Shields had a great game; when Sam [Derickson] and Chloe [Beam] came in, they really stepped it up and got it out for us.”

Caravel edged the Indians in penalty corners, 7-6. The Indians held the 11-9 advantage in shots.

IR junior goalkeeper Allyson Clark made eight saves; Caravel’s Alexandria Boettcher registered five saves.

It took less than seven minutes for IR to strike first, with Townsend hitting the back of the cage with an assist from Hall at the 23:29 mark of the first half.

Scoring early is something the Indians have been able to do well this season, which has been crucial to IR’s early-season success.

“It kind of sets the tone,” said Stone. “We tend to score early and that kind of sets our pace and helps us. That’s kind of like our M.O. this year.”

Cordrey extended the advantage to two goals when she scored off an assist from Ruley at the 16:29 mark. Cordrey was able to drive the ball past the goalie from outside of the circle to jump ahead, 2-0.

Congleton’s two goals, with 4:36 left in the first half and at the 25:36 mark of the second half, capped the scoring for the Indians.

“Kaylee crossed it in, and I saw the opportunity to cut in front of the defender and take it to the end line,” Congleton said of her second half goal. “I saw Emma [Ruley] on my left but then I saw the opening between the goalie and the right post, so I just slipped it right by her.”

While IR controlled the tempo and pace for much of the first half, including a strong performance from the midfield, the Bucs started producing scoring opportunities in the second half.

The Bucs earned five of its seven corners in the last 30 minutes, but IR’s midfield and back line held up and kept Caravel out of the cage until the final seconds.

“I think the midfield played really strong together, and their connections really worked well,” said Congleton. “They managed to switch the field a lot and get it to the wings to get it in.”

Through the program’s first eight games this season, IR has outscored opponents 39-11 and has yet to allow more than three goals in a game.

With a tough road ahead, including games against programs such as Smyrna High, Delmar High and Lake Forest High over the next few weeks, the Indians hope to continue to roll off the early-season momentum.

“It’s just one day, one game at a time,” Stone said. “We have Sussex Academy on Thursday, so we’ll just approach that in practice tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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