Cross-town rivals Caesar Rodney and Polytech will face each other on the field hockey field this Thursday with a lot on the line for both.
The Polytech Panthers come into Thursday's game at 9-2, sporting one of the better records in the state. However, they sit two games back of Delmar for the top spot in the Henlopen Southern division, and would love to overtake them for first place.
"We are currently 9-2 and to win out the rest of the season would give Polytech field hockey their best season every," said Polytech Head Coach Lynn Richardson. "Finishing strong also should help with the state tournament seeding and would give the team confidence as we start the tournament."
Caesar Rodney is 7-4-1 so far this season, though their road to the top is much more difficult. Three teams in the Henlopen North have a better record than the Riders, Milford (8-4), Sussex Tech (9-3) and the first place Cape Henlopen Vikings who sit at 12-1.
Despite playing in the tough Henlopen Conference, the Riders have nearly duplicated last seasons win total. Head Coach Maria Collier and the Riders would love to surpass last year's achievements. Though, they know it won't be easy, so their treating the rest of the season's games as must wins.
"It would be great to have a higher (win) total so that we can help ourselves by getting a higher ranking, but we need to win each game to make sure that we can get in," said Collier. "Last year we were very lucky with our strength of schedule, and we can't rely on that to get us in this year. We need to take care of our record and let everything else fall into place."
To be successful both teams have leaned on a group of leaders on and off the field. Without some of these standouts, neither one of these teams is talking tournament.
"The seniors have done a great job leading this team," said Richardson. "Julia Wise, Taylor Humphries, Addie Stang and Rochelle Rockeman anchor the defense while Jenna Hayes, Jorden Dennis and Brooke Watkinson have controlled the attack. During many games this year four freshmen have started, too. Goalie Lauren Lee and midfielders Morgan Cook, Allison McKay and Jamie Trabaudo. The entire team is very unselfish and have played great together."
On the CR side, they've seen players like Alexis Prillaman pulling her weight on both sides of the field to help out the team.
"Alexis has done her best to take control on the field," said Collier. "We mainly have her as a forward, but she is doing her best to come back and help on defense. That is a huge help for transitioning the ball up to our offensive circle. Kourtney Olsen is strong at getting away from defenders to create fast breaks. These are the two key people that are trying to push our team to the next level."
At the end of the day, we'll see two talented squads face-off against one another. And extra bonus is the rivalry that exists between the two schools.
"There is definitely a rivalry since many of the girls have grown up together," said Collier. "Having the schools so close to each other helps to create tension that always shows up on the field. In a rivalry game, the win and loss record isn't nearly as important as the heart in each player that cannot be measured by a number. Beating Polytech would give us great momentum going into our last game with Sussex Tech."