‘Hanging on to perfection’
SMS girls’ soccer going for second straight undefeated season
They may have lost the majority of their starting defense from last season, but that doesn’t mean that the Selbyville Middle School girls’ soccer team plans on losing any game this one, as the Indians aim to put together their second straight undefeated season and third in program history, under head coach Neil Barch.
“The goal has always been to win them all,” said Barch. “I try not to put that pressure on them, but I think they do think that they don’t want to let down the tradition of the school.”
So far, that goal looks to be as attainable as ever, with the Indians getting the season started with an 8-1 win over Delmar on Wednesday, March 22, and an 8-0 win over Seaford on Monday, March 27.
“We’re clicking for the most part. We just need to open up a little bit,” said co-captain and forward Sia Diakos, an eighth-grader. “We’re excited to, hopefully, get another undefeated season for our second time in a row.”
Coming off an 11-goal, four-assist season in 2016, Diakos returns to lead the offensive attack, along with fellow eighth-grader and midfielder Izzy Binko (13 goals, nine assists in 2016).
Through the first two games, Diakos has already tallied six scores, while Binko has been the focal point in generating offensive opportunities at center-mid and added three scores of her own, with the team’s two scoring leaders developing a friendly rivalry over the years.
“The first game Sia got pulled down and Izzy took the P.K. So, in the second game, Izzy got wiped out in the box and Sia said, ‘Well, I get to take the P.K., since you took mine,’” Barch said with a laugh. “It’s a good, friendly competition.”
Binko is joined in the midfield by returner Hanna Bird, an eighth-grader; the younger of the Diakos sisters, seventh-grader Lia Diakos; eighth-grader Jocelyn Aguillera; seventh-grader Chloe Beam; and new addition Bella Scurci, a sixth-grader, among a strong rotation of depth players.
“We’ve got 14 girls that could probably start for any team in the state,” said Barch of the talent this season, attributing River Soccer Club as a primary factor in the team’s continued success.
“We’re all friends,” said Sia Diakos of the team chemistry. “In school, we all click. On the field, we all click. We’re like a family.”
When it comes to defense, and defending the win streak, Barch admitted he was a little concerned with the graduation of defensive leaders including Riley Murray and Kayley Belzner, who are both currently making an impact at the next level in their freshman seasons at Indian River High School.
While the team returned third-year starter Ann Weaver, in addition to their “H-less” Hanna Bird between the pipes for her eighth-grade campaign, there were still critical roles to fill on the back line.
With eighth-grader Raychel Ehlers returning to the team after a seventh-grade stint playing softball and after having started in a defensive role as a sixth-grader, eighth-grader Tobi LaRusso transferring from SDSA and sixth-grader Kendall Cathell joining the squad, however, the back line came together, and Barch’s concerned were wiped away.
“With that void, we weren’t sure what we were going to do, but Tobi coming from SDSA has really solidified what we thought might be a weakness,” Barch said. “She’s the real deal. Not many balls get by her.”
Not many balls get by Bird either, with the team posting six shutouts and giving up only five goals last season, which was Bird’s first at goalkeeper.
“The defense is pretty solid,” said Ehlers. “Not much is getting by us.”
With a career of coaching experience for both the boys’ and girls’ soccer team at SMS, and learning the ropes from River Soccer Club coach Duncan Smith at Indian River High School, Barch returns this season at the head coaching position once again.
He’ll be joined on the coaching staff by assistant coach Elizabeth Bare, whom he once coached during her days as a goalkeeper at Indian River.
“Coach Barch and Coach Bare push us to be our best,” said LaRusso. “They expect a lot from us.”
The Indians were looking to make it 3-0 this season when they headed north to take on Mariner Middle School on Wednesday, March 29, (after Coastal Point press time). They will host three home games after that, getting things started with a matchup against Sussex Academy on Wednesday, April 5, at 4 p.m.
The season finale is set for Wednesday, May 10, against Millsboro Middle School, when they’ll be ready for redemption after the Golden Knights tied them 2-2 last spring, and, if all goes according to plan, ready to cap another undefeated season.
“Things are looking good so far,” said LaRusso. “I think we’re going to have a good season this year.”