The Middletown girls’ soccer team is 13 games into their 2016 season and with just three games remaining on it, they Lady Cavs are still undefeated sitting at 11-0-2 on the year.
After a 7-7-1 mark a year ago, improvements were expected for the team, though no one expected them to be one of only two remaining undefeated teams with just two weeks left in the regular season.
While the majority of the credit for Middletown’s season goes to the players, led by the likes of standouts Rachel Finelli, Meghan Jolikko, Alexandra Rodriguez, Leigh Willis and Mary Warren, just to name a few – the approach up-and-down the program has made the difference, from coaches pulling double-duty, the team stepping up to the challenge of a tough schedule, to the growth of the team’s newer players.
Head Coach Brian Derrickson spoke about the team’s attitude each time they take the field and the coaches on staff which have spread their time between varsity and JV, creating a culture and a real sense of team throughout the program.
“The biggest difference in this team and last year’s is the attitudes the girls have brought to the field,” said Derrickson. “We have four coaches who have shared duties with both varsity and JV which has allowed players to feel like they are part of the program, not just varsity and JV. And, [they] hear and train in various environments which is beneficial.”
Also, the Derrickson and his staff did their best to put together the most challenging schedule possible for their team this season, which has also had an impact on the team.
“We also changed our schedule with a new cycle and added DMA and Delmar, two teams who were in the DII tournament last year to make the team more competitive,” Derrickson said.
Like any team, mixing in newcomers and putting them into a position to succeed can be a tough process. However, the Lady Cavs’ returning core and new faces have gelled well down the stretch.
“Each year brings new personnel to the program and this year, we have added several players who have stepped in and made a tremendous impact both at the varsity level and the JV level,” said Derrickson.
It can be hard for an undefeated team to look at their game and pick out weaknesses. For the Lady Cavs, who have shown little in the way of weaknesses overall, it’s about staying focused on their games and being ready for the challenges that still lie ahead.
For Coach Derrickson, he wants his team to keep their competitive edge, while working hard to capitalize on the chances the team creates on the field.
“[We want to] create a mindset to solve problems on the field with one another and be creative in their play,” said Derrickson. “A lot of our games have been played in half field environments which is a lot of players and penetrating into the final third, which is sometimes a challenge. Finishing set pieces is an area that we need to do a better job in, as many of our games coming up can be won or lost in this area.”
Middletown knocked off Appoquinimink 1-0 on Wednesday night, moving one game closer to clinching the Flight A title.
The game was scoreless through both halves, meaning overtime was needed. Megan Jolikko scored in the 78th minute off a free kick to give the Lady Cavaliers the victory.
Freshman keeper Taylor Wolf made 11 saves in the win for the Middletown.
“[I want the team to] just be consistent and bring the attitude to learn and play to their ability,” said Derrickson. “Play with a chip on your shoulder, is our theme as we want to get back to the tournament and in doing so, create a competitive mentality that will allow us to be competitive in games that are very close.”
The Lady Cavaliers are back on the pitch Monday afternoon at William Penn. A victory over the Lady Colonials will give Middletown the Blue Hen Conference Flight A Division title.