One day before Indian River’s semifinal match, head coach Steve Kilby split up his squad at practice. The defenders were on one end of the field while the attackers were on the other working on their finishing with assistant Brandt Mais.
Mais’ finishing practice paid off Saturday. Of the Indians’ four shots on goal, three found the back of the net.
“I might let [Mais] do that for the rest of my life,” Kilby said.
Sophomore Danny Garza scored twice for IR in the first 10 minutes and junior Sam Izzo added another goal in the second half to lead the Indians to a 3-0 victory over St. Georges.
Luis Cruz helped put the third-seeded Indians on top in the fourth minute. Cruz slipped a ball through to Garza, who took a quick shot with his left foot on his first touch to find the bottom corner of the net.
“I knew [Cruz] was gonna play a perfect ball,” Garza said. “I just had to finish it.”
Garza’s next goal stunned the crowd three minutes later.
The midfielder stood over a bouncing ball 30 yards away from goal with three defenders in front of him. Instead of collecting the ball and taking the defenders on, Garza elected to hit it on the volley.
It proved to be a great decision as his effort dipped into the top corner.
“I had a little bit of time to think about it,” Garza said. “I was like might as well go for it and put it on target.”
St. Georges, the seventh seed in the tournament, only managed two shots on goal for the game.
The closest the Hawks came to scoring was on a free kick at the beginning of the second half that IR goalie Sam Cannon punched over.
Izzo sealed the win with a header off a free kick a few minutes later.
“Up 2-0 we knew if they got a goal they were back in it, so we had to get a third,” Izzo said. “[On] the header I just went up for the ball hoping to get it and I got it.”
It’s the Indians’ first ever trip to the state championship game, which will be played Tuesday. They’ll face Salesianum at 7 p.m. at Smyrna High.
“It’s really surreal,” Izzo said. “Our school has never been in this situation before. We really wanna get it.”
“It feels good, but the thing is this can’t be it,” Kilby said. “They can’t be satisfied with making the finals. They’ve got to go play the finals, and I think they’ll be prepared.”