Indian River High 2015 spring sports previews

Then sophomore Madison Mercer and the Indian River girls’ soccer team lost in a state tournament quarterfinals match against St. Georges. Mercer and multiple other Indians returning to the 2015 team will look to make a deeper tourney run this season. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Then sophomore Madison Mercer and the Indian River girls’ soccer team lost in a state tournament quarterfinals match against St. Georges. Mercer and multiple other Indians returning to the 2015 team will look to make a deeper tourney run this season. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

DAGSBORO — March has been a cruel month to spring sports teams.

And those at Indian River are no exceptions.

Snow and rain has limited outdoor practice time across the board, but the show must go on.

Girls’ soccer has always been a strong sport for IR, and this season’s team should continue the trend. The Lady Indians, despite graduating some talented seniors from their 2014 squad, should be strong in the scoring department with the return of striker Brooke Beam.

Over the years, IR softball has been solid but not quite where it used to be in the early to mid part of last decade. In her first season as an IR head coach, Erika Brittingham led the Indians into the playoffs and no doubt getting back is at least one of the team’s goals for 2015. To get there, however, the girls will have to make up for the loss of four key Class of 2014 seniors.

Over on the baseball field, head coach Kevin Cordrey’s Indians are in a bit of a rebuilding phase. Included in the phase is listing longtime assistant and former softball leader Chris Megee as a co-head coach this season.

Back to the girls, at IR the tennis team figures to once again be at the top of the Southern Division.

Boys’ tennis wise, first-year head coach Kelsey Waite has a team capable of competing for the Henlopen South as well.

Meanwhile, the boys’ lacrosse program under new co-head coaches Jerry Sheridan and John Jaskewich will have an inexperienced but no doubt excited group of players to mold.

Lastly, Paris Mitchell Sr. is likely just hoping his Indians can get a full week’s worth of practice out on the golf course.

Following is a look at Indian River’s varsity spring sports teams:

Baseball

Coach: Kevin Cordrey and Chris Megee

2014 record: 4-14

Outlook: Indian River’s baseball team is in a bit of a transition phase right now.

And helping with that transition in full this season is longtime assistant Chris Megee, who will be sharing head coaching duties with Kevin Cordrey.

Last season was a bit of a struggle for IR, which featured a few talented seniors such as Colby Dean but was quite young overall.

There were some bright spots though, even in losses. One such defeat came at the hands of Salesianum at the end of the campaign when the Indians gave up 13 runs but were able to produce 10 versus one of the state’s top programs.

This season Megee and company know reaching the playoffs by winning the Henlopen Conference Southern Division will be a difficult goal to accomplish, but with the right breaks they believe it is a possibility.

In order to create some of those breaks for themselves, the Indians will have to do it on the mound.

“Experience and lack of a true starting pitcher,” Megee said were things that could prevent IR from winning the South. “We will be pitching by committee in order to be competitive and effective, (and) are currently working with most of our roster forming a staff while trying to protect their development at other positions.

“If each pitcher can give us two-to-three good innings and we continue to develop throughout the season, we feel (winning) the South is possible with a chance to gain more experience for the future in the playoffs.”

Leading the way this season for IR will be senior utility man Eddie Hogan, who is one of four Indians (Kenny Rishel, Avery McCormick and Jesse Balasus) playing varsity baseball for the final time at the school.

“Eddie Hogan has been a positive influence on this young squad and has put this team in the right frame of mind so far this year,” Megee said. “We are going through a culture change while starting to get players with a higher baseball IQ along with athletes who can play several positions. Most of our younger players participated in voluntary off-season workouts and it is paying off for them.”

IR was scheduled to open the season Monday at home versus defending state champion St. Mark’s and then be at Polytech a day later.

The team is slated to host South rival Delmar on Friday.

Softball

Coach: Erika Brittingham

2014 record: 14-7, lost in state tournament second round

Outlook: Under former Sussex Central star Erika Brittingham’s helm, Indian River’s softball team reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament in 2014.

Now in her second season as the Lady Indians’ head coach, however, Brittingham will have to hope a team that is young at key positions grows up quickly if IR is to repeat that success.

Gone from last season’s squad to graduation were former starting second baseman Ana Impastato, shortstop Karlie Smith, pitcher Rachel Hudson and catcher Sarah Hickman.

Brittingham could not be reached for comment, but her team was scheduled to begin the season at home versus St. Mark’s on Monday. From there the Indians face difficult challenges with a scheduled away game versus Polytech on Tuesday and then Friday’s home tilt against Southern Division power Delmar.

Girls’ soccer

Coach: Steve Kilby

2014 record: 15-2, lost in state tournament second round

Outlook: Everything seemed to be going right for Indian River’s girls’ soccer team at the end of last season.

Then the wheels on the momentum bus fell off when the Lady Indians were upset by St. Georges in their first matchup of the newly-formed Division II playoff field.

IR had entered the tourney on a 14-match winning streak, including a pair of victories over Henlopen North winner Sussex Tech, the latter of which earned the Indians their program’s first ever conference championship.

Longtime head coach Steve Kilby is banking that the returning Indians will have learned some humility from the tournament defeat.

“The tournament performance last year was a letdown,” Kilby said. “We were a little bit lackadaisical. I would be very disappointed, and I know (the team) will as well, if they don’t make some type of run in this year’s tournament.”

IR’s optimistic outlook is due to the return of multiple players from last season’s team that have the ability to put the ball in the net.

Included in that group is potential All-State junior Brooke Beam, sophomore Madison Hogsten and senior Sarah Buchler, who was on the defensive third most of last season.

“We have some strong attacking players,” Kilby said. “We’ll supplement that with Madison Mercer, who will be playing as a third forward, and freshman Sammie Whelen is someone we’ll play in the defensive third but she can attack.”

Where the Indians, who were scheduled to open the season Tuesday versus Polytech, will need some quick growth is in goal following the graduation of keeper Alex Myers.

Freshman Fabrea McCray will be minding the IR net this season.

Perennial Henlopen North powerhouse Caesar Rodney is scheduled to come to Frankford Thursday for a 7 p.m. bout with the Indians.

Girls’ tennis

Coach: Stefanie Riddle

2014 record: 9-3
Outlook: Rarely over the last several years has Indian River’s girls’ tennis team not finished the season near or at the top of the Henlopen Conference Southern Division.

And that doesn’t figure to change much entering this season.

Though four seniors graduated from last year’s team, which went undefeated in division play, several return, including No. 1 singles Seung Son.

IR will also be aided by its large roster, head coach Stefanie Riddle said.

“We have 15 (girls) with us this year,” she said. “We lost four seniors but all those returners have moved up and they are ready to play.

“I think that we are going to have some strong competition and we are going to be really good,” Riddle added. “But, I think we are definitely going to have to work on some foundational skills.”

Two more seniors will be playing singles for the Indians this season, Zoe Richard in the second spot and Danielle Rybicki at No. 3.

Seaford is the Indians’ first scheduled opponent, with that conference match taking place Wednesday on the road.

Boys’ tennis

Coach: Kelsey Waite

2014 record: 7-6

Outlook: Indian River’s boys’ tennis team will feature a new look this season with head coach Kelsey Waite taking over the program.

Waite will be tasked with getting the Indians back on top of the Henlopen South, where they were for two consecutive seasons before 2014. Possibly making that task even more difficult is the overall inexperience of the 2015 roster.

“We lost five seniors so we’ve got a pretty young team, lot’s of people who are newer to tennis,” Waite said. “But, we have a lot of potential. I think we could do really well this season.”

Sophomore Mac Smith will likely enter the season as IR’s No. 1 singles player after playing doubles as a freshman. Senior Sean Whelen will also make the transition from doubles to singles this year.

Possible impact players new to the team include Patrick Mochiam, Kyle Evans and Mike Cramer. The former, a sophomore, played for IR’s boys’ soccer team and the latter two are ex-baseball players.

“It’s exciting watching the two of them work together, figuring things out,” Waite said of her two returning starters Smith and Whelen. “I’d like to have the boys all grow as a team. Winning the South is very ambitious for a young team, but I’m all about it.”

Seaford is scheduled to open the season at IR on Wednesday, 4 p.m.

Track and field

Coach: Bob Hahn

2014 record: Boys: 6-8; Girls: 5-9

Outlook: Attempts to reach listed boys’ and girls’ track and field head coach Bob Hahn were unsuccessful, but expect both his squads to be in the mix to win the Henlopen Conference Southern Division.

For the girls, just three listed Class of 2014 roster members are gone to graduation and the boys are in the same boat.

Both teams were scheduled to open the season Tuesday by hosting a quad-meet with Holly Grove Christian, Woodbridge and Laurel.

Golf

Coach: Paris Mitchell Sr.

2014 record: 5-9

Outlook: Despite returning just three members to last season’s roster, IR’s golf team improved by two wins over the 2013 club.

Now, head coach Paris Mitchell Sr. is hoping the experienced gained last season will pay dividends this year.

“The golf team lost only one starter to graduation,” Mitchell said. “We did not have a very good season last year but we were very young. This year we have five returning players with starting experience.

“One of our returning seniors and team captain is Clayton Hardy,” Mitchell continued. “Clayton is a four-year starter and he has looked good in practice this year.”

IR should also get a boost from junior returnee Joey Cooper, who was first-team All-Conference as a sophomore, and junior Tori Buchanan, now a three-year starter for the Indians.

Senior Keegan Orhelein and sophomore John Evans are also starters from 2014 who should be improved this year.

“We look to be a deeper team this year with the new players and all of our returning players,” Mitchell said. “We are looking at a strong run for the Southern Division title and then we want to improve on our conference tournament results and possibly return to the state tournament.

IR is scheduled to be at Milford’s course on Tuesday and then play at its home, Cripple Creek, Thursday versus Seaford.

Boys’ lacrosse

Coach: Jerry Sheridan and John Jaskewich

2014 record: 9-7, lost in state tournament first round

Outlook: Co-head coaches Jerry Sheridan and John Jaskewich take over an IR boys’ lacrosse program that, despite its fledging status, reached the state tournament a season ago.

Repeating that accomplishment, however, will be a difficult task as the 2014 Indians featured 14 seniors on their roster who have since graduated.

Seniors on this season’s team are Jose Cruz, William Ransone, Jordan Schoen, John Velasquez and Hunter West.

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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