Caesar Rodney girls glad to be back in soccer state semifinals

By Andy Walter
Posted 5/26/24

CAMDEN — It had been two years since the Caesar Rodney High girls’ soccer team had a chance to win a state tournament game again.

The Riders didn’t squander the opportunity.

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Caesar Rodney girls glad to be back in soccer state semifinals


CAMDEN — It had been two years since the Caesar Rodney High girls’ soccer team had a chance to win a state tournament game again.

The Riders didn’t squander the opportunity.

CR, the fourth seed, got a pair of second-half goals, to down fifth-seeded Odessa, 2-0, in the DIAA Division I state quarterfinals on Wednesday night.

The victory gives the Riders (12-3-1) another chance to prove themselves when they travel to top-seeded Middletown (16-0) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the state semis.
CR coach Dwayne Lavender said his players are excited to be back in the state tourney. The Riders missed it last spring after finishing with a record of only 6-7-2.

“Last year was a little rough,” said Lavender. “There were some major injuries and some tight games we didn’t win.

“I think this group is really hungry to get back to who we are as a program. ... I think this crew had it in their mind they were going to get back there. And here we are in the state semifinals.”

What CR does best right now is play good defense. The Riders have allowed just three goals in their current six-game unbeaten streak.

For the season, CR has registered eight shutouts. While the Riders have scored only 37 goals, they’ve allowed just 13.

Against Odessa, freshman goalie Eva Sheppard made 11 saves. The Ducks had scored 62 goals during the regular season, an average of 4.1 per game.
Lavender said Sheppard was “phenomenal.”

“She made the saves she needed to make,” he said. “She’s been a real blessing as a freshman in the net.”

Offensively, senior Alexandra Soghomonian broke the scoreless tie on a goal at the 45-minute mark. Junior Alexandra LeNoir assisted on the goal, sending the ball in on a corner kick.

Then, at the 66-minute mark, freshman Lyla Nadel added an insurance goal off a 25-yard indirect free kick. There was some question whether it was supposed to be a direct or indirect kick.

“It was kind of confusing because we weren’t sure what it was,” said Lavender. “He put up the indirect sign but I thought everybody thought it was direct.

“She (Nadel) looked at me like, ‘Coach?’ I’m like, ‘Go for it. Just put it toward frame and see what happens.’ Good things usually happen.

“She hit a great shot,” he said. “It was a wonderful shot regardless.”

The call was indeed for it to be an indirect free kick and the referee at first waved off the goal. But the linesman confirmed that the shot had gone off the hand of Odessa’s out-stretched goalie.

CR has only six seniors on a roster that includes six sophomores and five freshmen.

Middletown will post a formidable challenge for the Riders. The Cavaliers have netted a state-leading 94 goals this season and given up just five.

Lavender knows his defense will have to come up big if CR is going to be competitive in the contest.

The Riders are trying to reach the state finals for the eighth time since 2007 but for the first time since 2018.

“Middletown is a tough test, that’s for sure,” said Lavender. “We’re going to go in playing with house money and see what we can do.

“I know that we’re a very good defensive team and we’re going to try to shut down their strengths and play to our strengths. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

Regardless of what happens on Wednesday night, though, Lavender said the season has already been a success for CR. He thinks the Riders have definitely moved on from last season’s disappointment.

“I told this group, I can never do anything but applaud their effort they put on the field,” said Lavender. “Leave it on the field and the business will take care of itself if we do has kind of been our mentality. It’s been pretty successful so far.

“We’re young, we’re talented and there’s more talent coming in,” he added. “I think we’re in a good place.”

Extra points

•Middletown is the defending Division I state champion and has won the title twice since 2017. The Cavaliers are the only traditional public school to win a girls’ soccer state championship since A.I. DuPont in 2011.

•Currently, Middletown is riding a 26-game winning streak since losing to Smyrna, 2-1 last April.

•No Henlopen Conference team has won a state crown in girls’ soccer. Ten Downstate squads have played in a state final.

• Padua has the most state championships in the sport with 12.

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