Senators show improvement in girls soccer

Dover’s Aimee Petitdemange (7) Delaware State News file photos

DOVER — If there was a turning point this season, Ashli Warman said it came in the first half of the Polytech High game.

That’s when her Dover High teammate, Aimee Petit de Mange, scored the contest’s first goal on a penalty kick.

“I felt like that really lifted us up,” said Warman, a sophomore defender. “We were really scared going into the game.

“We were thinking, ‘Oh this is going to be a tough game. We might not win.’”

But the Senators did win the Henlopen North matchup, 3-1, last Thursday. And Dover followed it up with a 7-0 victory over Laurel on Tuesday to push its record to 4-1.

That’s already one more win than the Senators had all last season in a 3-10-2 campaign.

Nobody around the program is getting carried away with the new-found success. But, as they get ready to host Smyrna (2-0 North, 3-1 overall) today at 6 p.m., the Senators (1-1 North) are certainly more confident in themselves.

“I like the attitude of the team,” said Petit de Mange, a senior defender. “Like even if we get down, it doesn’t stop us. We just keep going. The attitude is a lot different that it has been in years past.

“It’s a big deal to us,” she said about surpassing last year’s win total already. “But we’re trying to keep level-headed.”

Tamyah Jones

Dover’s turnaround isn’t totally unexpected, however.

Last spring, in their first season under new head coach Paige Spence, the Senators had a combined eight freshmen and sophomores but only two seniors on the roster.

This year, Dover has a combined 10 seniors and juniors.

“We just connect more,” said senior Taylor Hutchins. “This year we click without even having to think about it.

“It was pretty tough. We lost a whole bunch last year. But we knew we’d be better. Even as the season went on last year, there was a big difference.”

“There was a very positive vibe coming from everyone last year,” said Spence, a Lake Forest High grad. “They all knew it was a building year. They all knew I was coming in. I kind of switched things up.

“It feels good,” she said about Dover’s start. “We’re connecting a lot more. We’re on the same page this year, it’s nice.”

Offensively, sophomore Tamyah Jones has a team-high five goals, Warman’s sister, Syndi, has four and Zaria Henry has three. Defensively, with senior Britney Rosello at goalie, the Senators have given up only three goals so far.

“Everyone wanted to win (last year),” said Petit de Mange, a second-team all-Henlopen North pick last spring. “But it took time to learn how everyone was going to work together. We just had to learn how to mesh together.

“By the end, we started to come together more. We still weren’t performing as well but we definitely improved a lot over the season. We learned a lot last year.”

There are still a lot more goals the Senators want to accomplish this season.

They’ve finished with a winning record only once in the last four seasons. Dover also reached the DIAA Division I state tournament just once in that stretch — going 9-7 in 2016.

But the Senators also realize their schedule only gets more difficult. They also know there’s plenty of skeptics still out there.

“It kind of annoys me that people doubt us and they think, ‘Oh, it’s just Dover, we’re going to beat them,’” said Warman.

“It definitely felt like it would be different (this year),” said Petit de Mange. “I think we gained some more confidence as a team after that win (against Polytech).”

“We’re excited and humble,” said Spence. “But I would not trade a single one of the girls on this team for anybody else. We’re in it together, win or lose.

“It’s early. There’s going to be a lot of competitive games. Polytech was a big win for us. I think that kind of got us excited about the rest of the season.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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