The DIAA Division I and Division II Girls Soccer State Tournaments will be in full swing this week, as the best of the best from each division battle it out for state crowns.
Two local schools, Sussex Tech in Division I and Indian River from Division II, qualified for the postseason.
The Sussex Tech Ravens return to the DI tournament looking to get out of the opening round after an early exit last year, while IR hopes to get back to the DII title game after finishing as the state’s runner up a year ago.
No. 7 Sussex Tech v. No. 2 Padua Academy
The Ravens ended the regular season with a 9-5-1 mark, navigating their way through a tough schedule to earn one of the final spots in the state tournament.
“We had the fifth toughest schedule in the state,” said Head Coach Carlos Villa. “Our play lately has been very good - we’re confident and will be working diligently on our tactical approach for this [playoff] match.”
As the No. 7 seed, Tech draws No. 2 Padua Academy, a school which has eliminated the Lady Ravens in each of the last three state tournaments.
Sussex Tech struggled to start the season, going 2-3-1 in their first six games including losses to Appoquinimink, Delmar and Indian River.
After the early slide, the Lady Ravens won seven of their final nine games, with their only losses coming to tournament teams Caesar Rodney and Polytech.
A talented group led by Nicolette Phillips, Kira Short, Ella Marsh, Alexis Singh and Rebecca Wheatley just to name a few, will face a tall task against the Lady Pandas who enter the tournament as the five-time defending state champions.
Padua, who finished 12-2-1 this season, dominated the state finishing undefeated against Delaware schools behind a deep lineup that includes Lindsay Machamer, Emilia Ryjewski, Ashlee Bretlinger, Arryana Daniels and Anne Brush.
The only blemishes on Padua’s record this season came against out-of-state teams, two of which are currently ranked among the top five in the entire country.
Padua’s two losses came against Georgia’s Westminster School and J.L Mann High School from South Carolina.
Westminster ended the year 20-1-1, ranking fourth in the country; J.L. Mann went 24-1 overall ranked third in the United States.
The Panda’s tie came against Kellam High School, the fifth ranked school in all of Virginia.
“Obviously it would be a major win, beating a national power in girls high school soccer would be a phenomenal accomplishment for any Delaware team,” Villa said. “We’re thankful for the opportunity to compete in the state tournament and we are definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
No. 3 Indian River v. No. 6 Tower Hill/No. 11 Wilmington Friends
The Lady Indians put together another strong season on the pitch in 2017, ending the year with a 14-1 record to earn the No. 3 overall seed in the Division II State Tournament and a first round bye.
“For us, the bye is critical,” said IR Head Coach Steve Kilby said. “We lost our top two strikers in our last two games, so hopefully we can get one or both back before Thursday.”
IR wasn’t just a standout within Division II play, but put up impressive numbers to rival even the best Division I school.
Led by a deep group including Sam Whelen, Madison Hogsten Margaret Ford, Isabella Keith, Skyler McClure, Avery Congleton, Zena Lowman, Bailey Singer, Kayley Belzner, Rylie Cordrey and goalie Fabrea, the Lady Indians put up bulky numbers on both ends of the field.
Offensively, IR finished the season with 86 total goals, second only to Division I No. 1 seed Middletown (91) in the state.
Indian River also kept opponents off the scoreboard regularly, ending the year with a state low six goals against this season which includes 11 shutouts.
The Henlopen South Champions fell just twice this season, both times to Division I standout Caesar Rodney.
Both games against CR were decided by just a goal; a 3-2 regular season loss and a 2-1 loss in the Henlopen Conference Championship Game.
While they don’t yet know who they’ll face in the quarterfinals this week, IR does know they’ll be facing either No. 6 Tower Hill or No. 11 Wilmington Friends.
“We’ve been playing well in all three phases of the game,” said Kilby. “Hopefully that will continue if we can get our attackers back on the field.”