DOVER – Sarah Buchler has played a lot of soccer in her young life.
On a chilly, rainy Thursday night at Dover High, that experience paid off for the Indian River senior.
Nearly 25 minutes into a Division II state tournament quarterfinals bout with conference rival Lake Forest, Buchler netted what proved to be the game-winning goal during a 2-1 IR victory.
IR’s win advanced the three-seed to the program’s first ever appearance in the girls’ soccer tournament semifinals. There the Indians (14-3) will meet Archmere on Tuesday at an as of yet undetermined time and venue.
“I knew as soon as Maddie Hogsten got it (the ball) out there (on the wing) she is good at finding people running up,” Buchler said of the setup for the winner. “She’s really good at getting those assists off and as soon as I called her name she saw me and hit a quick ball over. I just kind of touched it in. All the credit goes to Maddie and the girls who got the ball up there. I just had to finish it.”
When the teams met during the regular season, IR jumped on the Spartans (13-4) early and rolled to a 6-1 victory. Early in Thursday’s rematch it looked like a repeat could play out.
Less than 1:30 into the game, Indians junior Brooke Beam hit a 20-yard shot from center-pitch out of the reach of Spartans keeper Alyssa Banks and into the right side of the net. From there the Indians kept attacking and Buchler’s goal made it 2-0, but afterward No. 6 Lake tightened its defense and IR didn’t score again.
“All credit to them, they stepped it up a notch,” IR coach Steve Kilby said of Lake Forest. “But, we’ve advanced and that was the goal.”
With 27 minutes left to play, Lake made things much tenser for Indian River, which was upset last postseason in the quarterfinals by St. Georges.
Spartans junior Alyssa Santore drilled a low linedrive corner kick into the box, off an IR player and into the net to cut the Indians’ lead in half. Lake, however, had few chances outside of one more corner later in the game to knot the score.
Despite the loss, Lake coach Pete Randazzo was proud of his team’s effort, particularly of the defensive end. He added that Banks in goal, where she made 11 saves, helped keep the Spartans within striking distance throughout the match.
“The second half they came together, and I wish we had a few more minutes,” Randazzo said. “She (Banks) has made such a transition from the beginning of the year. A good keeper has to keep you in the game, and she did.
“It was a great year and run,” he continued. “And we have so much to look forward to. A lot of the girls are coming back and it’s exciting.”
IR, of course, will continue playing this postseason.
Being able to put last year’s disappointment behind them, Buchler said, will help the Indians moving forward.
“This was a big game to get that confidence in knowing that we are moving on,” Buchler said. “It was nice to see a team we already saw and prove we could beat a good team twice. We proved we’re just as good as any team in the tournament.”
The Journal sports editor Jeff Mitchell
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