The 2018 DIAA Division I Girls Soccer tournament gets underway today with four quarterfinals games, with No. 2 Caesar Rodney taking on No. 7 William Penn in the first of two games at Smyrna High School.
The Riders are riding high, finishing the regular season 12-1-1 and winning the Henlopen North Division title. CR defeated Indian River 4-3 in penalty kicks to claim the Henlopen Conference championship.
Caesar Rodney has built an impressive record heading into the postseason opener. They ended the year 8-0-1 n against the rest of the Henlopen Conference. They were tough against out-of-conference opponents at 4-1, with their only loss coming to perennial powerhouse Padua Academy, by one goal.
The Riders put a well-rounded team on the field every game and it showed in the results. Only three teams scored more regular season goals.
The teams was led by junior Jessie Prillaman’s team-high 16 goals, along with fellow junior Macy Ramsey with 15.
Offensive contributions came from the likes of juniors Megan Powers and Laynee Ford, sophomore Megan Rigsby and senior Kimberly Glasser. The Lady Riders got an offensive bump from freshman Jada McCullough, with seven goals on the year.
“I’ve been very pleased with our team’s play this season,” said CR Head Coach Darrell Gravatt. “We have won some tight games and have played great team defense - also, we’ve scored a lot of big goals.”
If CR is a handful on offense, they’re even tougher defending their own end of the pitch.
Powered goalkeeping from junior Morgan Desaulniers, they allowed just 10 goals against this year, the second lowest in the state (behind only Padua, which allowed five goals on the season).
While Caesar Rodney has built a team with yearly championship aspirations, opponent William Penn returns for the first time since 2005.
“We are very battled tested and we are ready,” said Gravatt. “I don’t know a lot about [William Penn], but they made the tournament, so we better be ready to play well.”
Under the leadership of head coach Justin Land, who took over in 2012, the culture at William Penn has changed. He is slowly building the Colonials into budding contenders.
With just four seniors, William Penn turned some heads in the Blue Hen Conference, finishing with a 10-4-1 mark. The Lady Colonials enter the tournament playing well, having gone 3-0-1 in their final contests.
William Penn was one of only three teams to score more goals than Caesar Rodney, In fact, the Lady Colonials trailed only state leader Padua (77) in goals-for, finishing with 62.
Alexis Semmel leads the attack for William Penn with 25 goals. Meanwhile, they’ve also seen goalkeeper Schuler Stark emerge as a difference maker.
William Penn is well aware of challenge coming up.
“CR is a strong program that has seen a lot of success over the years,” Land said. “I look for CR to be fast, strong, well-balanced and have depth.”