Something took hold of Butch Martin while he was traveling in his RV through Arizona — now almost 10 years ago — that would change his life forever. To him, it was something new, something different, and something that he couldn’t help but try for himself.
And ever since he did, he’s been hooked.
“I heard the noise, the popping,” Martin recalled of what initially drew his interest to the increasingly popular sport of Pickleball. “So I went over to see what it was and they invited me to play. I’ve been playing ever since.”
From there, Martin quickly learned the game and the rules: serves must be underhand; play to 11; win by 2 — oh, and don’t go in “the kitchen,” the game’s notorious area designated in front of the net.
Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court, with paddles that are slightly larger than ping-pong paddles. The ball used is similar to a whiffle ball, but slightly smaller and, combined with a lower net, offers opportunities for players of various skill levels to play in a low-key social setting or with some serious competition in mind.
I’m not quite sure what day it is.
After leading the charge on the field in the Indians’ inaugural girls’ lacrosse season, senior defender Maggie Allison started the game in the goal during their season finale against Sussex Academy — a game they’d eventually go on to win, 14-5, and lock an undefeated record.
“I have a whole new appreciation for goalies,” said Allison of the experience.
Allison’s younger sister, freshman Kealey Allison, would put the Indians up 1-0 early, with junior Emily Shuey, freshman Helen Davis and sophomore Lexi Haden all adding unanswered scores afterwards, before the Seahawks would manage a shot on goal.
After letting in the first shot, however, Allison’s defensive background stood out, as she managed three consecutive saves to keep Sussex Academy off the board.
The Indians were looking for redemption headed into Thursday’s Henlopen conference championship against Caesar Rodney.
But while they may not have been able to find it against the Henlopen North nemesis in a 3-1 loss, they were able to find the mental toughness they had been missing when they faced the Riders earlier this season, and were prepared to shake off the loss and gear up for the DIAA playoffs.
“The thing for me is we kept battling,” said Indian River head coach Steve Kilby, comparing Tuesday’s performance against CR to the one earlier this season. “I’m really happy with that, and the girls recognized that, as well. So, hopefully, we build on this going forward.”
“We did work our hardest today. We never quit,” added senior captain and midfielder Sarah Buchler. “We looked a lot better than last game, we kept our heads up — it shows we’ve matured a lot over the season.”
The last time the two teams faced off, the Indians were deflated when a Caesar Rodney penalty kick broke a 1-1 stalemate just before halftime. However, in Tuesday’s matchup, despite going down by three goals at one point, the girls never threw in the towel.
The match went scoreless until the 21st minute, despite multiple chances by both teams, but the Riders struck first, when sophomore midfielder Lynsy Gruwell finally got a shot past freshman goalkeeper Fabrea McCray — who tallied five first-half saves and would go on to finish with 11 saves on the night for the Indians.
Indian River senior Taite Daisey had her options when it came to choosing a college, but ultimately, her love of running factored into her decision as she signed with Messiah College last Friday to run both cross-country and track-and-field next year.
But then running has factored into her decisions ever since her she began her career in the sport upon entering Indian River High School, giving up other sports in the process.
“I first ran cross-country to get in shape for soccer, but I really liked running, so I quit soccer for track,” she explained. “I’m planning to do both when I go up there.”
Getting her first look at Messiah when she attended a cross-country camp that they held last summer, Daisey was welcomed by the coaches and other runners immediately — and was attracted to not only the running programs there but the small-school atmosphere, as well.
After graduating the bulk of their team last year, it’s been an up-and-down season for the Indian River High School boys’ lacrosse team. So, when Wilmington Christian came to town, an up-and-down game with a comeback finish and eventual 13-9 victory seemed all too fitting a way for the Indians to end their season.
“They rallied,” said coach Jerry Sheridan after the game. “They showed us today what we were looking for all year.”
“We’re a team of stretches,” added sophomore midfielder George “G-Mart” Martin. “We’ll have times when we look just as good, if not better than, the team last year. And there’s times that we’re not even playing as a team. When we’re at our best — we’re good.”
The Indians certainly appeared to be at their best to start the game, jumping out to a 4-0 lead — until the Warriors rallied back from the deficit, all the way to a 8-5 lead at halftime.
A playoff appearance seemed out of reach for the 4-8 Indians earlier this season; however, after rallying back with five wins in a row, the young squad was 9-8 and primed for a post-season appearance when Appoquinimink came to town on Saturday.
Despite the Indians jumping out to 3-0 first-inning lead in that game, an eight-run rally in the second-inning propelled the Jaguars to an eventual 16-6 victory, and put the Indians’ tournament hopes out of their own control.
“We need some help from some other [teams], and I don’t like relying on other [teams],” said head coach Erika Brittingham of her team’s playoff chances after the game. “After that first inning, mental errors took us out of that game. That’s not the way we wanted to end our season.”
I was really trying to avoid this whole “Deflategate” resurfacing thing.
It could be called the “Battle of the Beach.” Or it could be called the “War on the Shore.” But whatever it’s called, it still has to be called a tie, as the Indian River and Worcester Prep (Berlin, Md.) girls’ lacrosse programs faced off for the first time in history on Monday in a back-and-forth matchup that ended in a 10-10 stalemate.
Despite the evenly matched squads, the undefeated Indians jumped out to a 6-1 lead early on behind a first-half hat trick from Indian River junior midfielder Emily Shuey.
But the Mallards would go on to mount a comeback before the break, stringing together four unanswered goals and closing the gap to just one score, down 6-5, before IR freshman midfielder Kealey Allison found the net just before halftime to give her squad a 7-5 advantage.
The second half saw a back-and-forth rollercoaster ride of lead changes, as after initially tying the game at seven, Prep continued to battle back, to again even the score on three other occasions — first at eight, then nine and, eventually, where it would settle, at 10.
“They just came out strong in the second half,” said Indian River head coach Kara Voss of Prep’s second-half effort.
“In close games, it comes down to little things, little mistakes,” added IR coach Anne McBride. “A turnover, not taking care of the ball, fouls — those are all little things that could yield goals. Unfortunately, that happened a couple of times to set up their scoring.”
The intra-district rivalry wasn’t much of a rivalry on Tuesday, as the Indian River High School lacrosse team steamrolled Sussex Central 15-2 in a physical matchup.
The Tribe set the tone early, jumping out to a 5-0 lead before the end of the first quarter and going into halftime with an 8-1 advantage.
“We played a good first quarter,” said coach Jerry Sheridan. “Our second line produced well for us, and we came out with a win.”
Indian River sophomore midfielder George Martin led the charge offensively, with five scores on the day — bringing his season total to a whopping 40 goals and 18 assists with one game still left to go. Freshman attackman Wyatt Kovatch also impressed with a breakout game — putting up four goals of his own in the victory.
The seniors on the Indian River High School baseball team took the field at home for the final time last Thursday, but first they made sure to leave their mark, as they rallied to an 11-1 victory over Lake Forest.
“The beginning of the year, we were kind of hard on them because we were looking for some leadership and we didn’t know where it was gonna come,” said coach Chris Megee. “I can safely say today that they are true leaders and captains on this team — every single one of them.”
While the Indians were without senior first-baseman Avery McCormick, who had to miss the game for a BPA conference in California, they got production from the squad’s three other seniors in the matchup, including Jesse Balasus in his first career start.
“Jesse was the player of the game, if you ask me,” said senior captain and 3B/P Eddie Hogan of Balsus’ 2-2 performance at the plate, where he tallied a double and three RBIs.
“He’s got the confidence,” said coach Kevin Cordrey. “He’s gotten better every day, and he’s having fun.”
After the game, Balasus reflected on the breakout performance to cap his baseball career at Indian River.
Indian River High School seems to have a knack for producing collegiate soccer talent.
Just over two months after seeing three soon-to-be graduates and River Soccer alumni sign letters of intent to play at the next level, yet another did the same last Thursday, when Ciera Morris signed with Hollins University to play soccer in the fall.
The senior midfielder most recently helped the Indians’ girls team clinch their third consecutive Henlopen South Championship; however, she’s been with the program for almost her entire athletic career — getting her start with the River Soccer Club before making the move to Selbyville Middle School and eventually taking the field for the Indians during all four years of high school.
“It’s definitely prepared me for the collegiate level,” Morris said of coming up through the program. “Coach Slonin and Coach Kilby have really been a big part of preparing me for that next level, getting that sense of confidence and ability to know that I can play for a D3 school.”
Morris said it was the program’s notoriety that initially generated the interest from Hollins, spurring a visit from head coach Robbie Ramirez, who made the trip from Virginia to get a look for himself when the Indians faced Laurel earlier this spring.
While Morris’ natural position is left wing, Ramirez has mentioned the possibility of trying forward next season — which, incidentally, is where she’s been seeing a lot of action for the Indians during her senior campaign.
After dropping six straight games in the thick of the regular season, returning to the DIAA playoffs didn’t seem like much of a possibility for the Indian River High School softball team.
However, since their last loss, to Cape Henlopen on April 29, the Indians’ bats have gotten hot en route to a five-game winning streak — keeping their post-season hopes alive at 9-8 on the season with one game still left on the docket.
“We were changing a lot of things, trying to find out what worked for us,” said head coach Erika Brittingham of the mid-season slump during which she changed her players’ swings. “We struggled for a while because of that, but now that our girls have had a lot of practice with the new swing, we’re really doing great things with it and we can see a big difference.”
The new-swinging Indians were on full display when Lake Forest came to visit for a division matchup, which they rallied to win 12-10 behind two homeruns from junior catcher Eliza “The Lizard” Bombhardt.
The 2015 Henlopen Conference tennis championships saw four medals for the Indian River High School Tennis team, as senior first-singles player Seung Son, senior second-singles player Sean Whelen, and second-doubles players junior Adam Izzo and sophomore Patrick Mochiam all placed for the Indians at Sea Colony on Saturday, May 9.
The lone medalist for the girls’ squad, Son’s second-place finish to cap her high school career comes just a year after placing third at last year’s championships, and was earned after a two-hour and forty-five minute battle and her defeat of the conference’s second-seed, Smyrna’s Katherine Clark.
After Clark handed Seung one of her only losses during the regular season, the senior was looking for redemption when the two met again.
“I ran on the court and was crying — I was just so proud of her,” said IR girls’ tennis head coach Stefanie Waite, who has coached Seung for the past three seasons. “She was so excited, after losing to her in the regular season — she had something to prove.”
The boys’ team saw equal success, with both Whelen and the doubles team of Izzo and Mochiam garnering third-place finishes less than a week after edging Milford for a Henlopen South title.