Spartans struggle to score in soccer loss to IR

FELTON – Some went off the left post. Others sailed either just over the crossbar, wide of their mark or into the keeper’s hands.

None of Indian River’s shots, however, were finding the net. At least not until the 38th minute of play.

Battling host Lake Forest (6-2 overall, 3-1 South) Thursday afternoon in a match that likely determined the Henlopen South girls’ soccer champion, IR (6-0, 4-0) netted goals toward the end of each half for a 2-0 victory.

It was junior Madison Hogsten, whose goal just prior to halftime came off an assist from senior Brooke Beam, that scored the eventual game-winner.

Lake lost 2-0 to IR in a key girls' soccer game. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell)

Lake lost 2-0 to IR in a key girls’ soccer game. (The Journal/Jeff Mitchell)

Beam played a perfect pass to Hogsten through the Lake Forest defense, setting the junior up with nothing between her and the back of the net except grass and Spartans goalie Alyssa Banks.

“I just focused on where the goalie was going to go and tried to hit it on the ground and into the corner,” Hogsten said, adding that defeating Lake Forest was a good win for the team. “We knew this one was going to be one of the harder ones, so we didn’t come in overconfident.”

Making things difficult on the Indians in addition to the Spartans’ defense – Banks alone had 10 saves – was the Lake Forest field dimensions.

Indian River, which plays its home games on a converted football field, is used to a wide playing surface. At Lake, the field was much more narrow.

“What the smaller field takes away from us is we’re not allowed to use the pace that we have and find the width, because it doesn’t exist,” IR coach Steve Kilby said. “One of our strengths is playing the ball wide and creating space to play into behind the defense. And credit to them (Lake Forest). They stayed really compact. There’s about six yards from the touchline to the 18 and they did a great job defending that space.”

With 12 minutes remaining in regulation, sophomore Samantha Whelen scored IR’s second goal and gave the Indians some insurance.

“They (Lake) didn’t possess a lot, but they had some effective counterattacks,” Kilby said. “That’s all it takes is one of those pesky counterattacks and somebody scores and the next thing you know it’s a tie game. So, absolutely it gave us some breathing room.”

The win put the Indians in strong position to capture another South championship. With three conference games remaining – all of which IR will be heavily favorited to win – the Indians need now to win just two of them to clinch the title.

Having won its first six games of the season, Thursday’s loss was Lake Forest’s second of the week.

Coach Pete Randazzo, whose team is currently without a few starters due to injury, is confident the Spartans will turn things around soon and make a strong push into the Division II state tournament.

“We’ve had some key injuries, and hopefully in a couple weeks we’ll have them back because they’re starters who play 80 minutes,” he said. “Right now we’re struggling and we have challenging games coming up where we need some positive results. We need to figure out how to get them. But they’re fighters who won’t back down from a challenge. They are very hungry to accomplish great things.”

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