By Kevin Eickman
While the Milford girls’ soccer team may have dug themselves a 3-0 halftime hole in the season opener versus Cape Henlopen on Thursday, there was no telling them that they could not dig their way out of it. Welcome to the 2017 version of of the Lady Bucs. A team that continues to make strides and who are having a lot of fun on the pitch. Back for his second season at the helm of Milford, is head coach Donovan Howard, the man who is learning just what his players are capable of.
“We fell behind and were playing just a bit too tentative. I honestly think that my strategy had a lot to do with that,” Howard said. “Once we switched to a more attacking style, you could just see the difference in how we looked.”
With a boost in confidence following halftime, Milford would go on the offensive. Attempting to find runners down the sides, Milford had several solid chances to put the ball in the net. While it took some time, Milford finally hit the board. The goal came on a long pass just across midfield that found the foot of Margret Sollie. The Buccaneer senior blasted the ball past the Cape keeper in the game’s 70th minute, buoying the hopes of the Milford faithful as the deficit was cut to 3-1.
Milford was not done by any stretch as they kept on attacking to try and get back in the game. While the offense was definitely providing opportunities, pressing up was leaving the Buccaneer’s defense stretched at time. With only three defenders in the back, a great deal of pressure was placed on senior goal keeper Amanda Sauer. Sauer took back 10 shots on the day and broke up other numerous scoring chances with a daring, take no prisoners approach in the box.
“Amanda was outstanding today, without her play there was no way we would have been in this game.” Howard stated. “She is fearless in the box and really has developed into a quality goal keeper. She is a real difference maker back there.”
Also helping stem the Viking tide was senior defender Deja Rodriguez-Santiago, who in limited playing time provided solid defending on Milford’s left side as Cape tried to attack it. “Deja is a real difference maker, it’s really great to watch the intensity that she brings to the game,” stated Howard.
Milford closed the gap in the 78th minute on a blazing strike into the upper right hand corner of the net, from the right foot of senior Daphne Leighty. It was the type of quality finish that Howard hopes to see more of. “With Daphne and Anna Sollie up front, I believe that can give us some firepower this season,” he stated.
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While Milford ended the day on the wrong end of a 3-2 score, they showed themselves what they are capable of going forward. “We were the better team the second half, we demonstrated how well we can play when we put our minds to it,” said Howard. “Look, it’s still a loss, but it is a loss that we can take a lot of positives out of. It’s about getting better, and today we got a little better.”
A the beginning of last season, I asked Howard what the goals for the team were. At the very top of the list was having his players develop a love of the game. Observing the positive attitude and gumption of his players against Cape, it is obvious this group is buying in and the word is spreading.
“We have 47 girls in the program this year, that’s a great number. Players want to be here and are having a good time, that’s what we are about,” Howard stated. “We are getting better, we are learning how to win. It’s all because of the work the girls are putting in and the goal is to keep getting better.”
Milford will host Polytech on Tuesday and Seaford on Thursday, this week. Both games are set to start at 4 pm.
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