By Kevin Eickman
Speaking with Milford’s soccer coach Donovan Howard prior to the season, it was obvious he had a plan for the Buccaneers. One of the goals he had for his first year changes was to develop a passion for the game, he felt it was imperative that the girls embrace the sport. He asked his players to buy into the sport, unlike most of them had never done.
“The girls are really on the way to developing the passion for the sport that we had spoken about,” Howard said. “With the time and effort that girls have put into the game, it has really been great as the lights have begun to turn on for them as they have continued to develop.”
After opening the season with two wins, Milford faced some tough times as they would drop the next four games. While it was a difficult stretch for the Buccaneers, it was the final loss of the streak in which the team took a major step forward. In falling to D-1 Cape Henlopen 1-0, Howard felt that the Buccaneers had taken a huge step forward. “In that game they learned that they really could compete with the better teams,” stated Howard. “You could see it, their confidence was beginning to grow, they were really beginning to develop the understanding and confidence we had been looking for.”
Milford would go on to win their next two games, before they ran into a gauntlet of five consecutive games against teams that would all qualify for the State Tournament. While Milford would not win any of the games, it was the second to last game of the stretch that really demonstrated how far this team had come. Trailing Delmar almost from the start, Milford was also playing down a player. The Buccaneers refused to give up, eventually tying the game up with just five minutes remaining in the game. “The way they refused to give up, they way that they just wouldn’t quit. It really showed a great deal of heart,” said Howard. “It was about developing a level of competitiveness that will serve them well in the future.”
When Howard speaks about the future, soccer is just a part of the equation. Howard sees athletics as just part of what develops students into well rounded people. “That is what this is all about, it is about education, as well as life,” Howard stated. “They are learning that anything they do, they should give it everything they have. The more they put into it, the more they are going to get out of it.”
Milford would end the season with a 5-10 record after defeating Laurel on Tuesday, before falling to Newark Charter School on Wednesday’s senior day. Howard had a great deal to say about how his seniors contributed this season. “They came to play every game and continued to improve with every game. Even though they were seniors and we were not going to make the tournament, they came to play every game,” Howard said. “When you have the seniors providing leadership like that , it makes a coaches job so much easier.”
We had a chance to catch up with seniors Morgan Vance, Maggie Cantu and Karla Sandoval-Haro following their final game. Asking them about their favorite memories, Vance chimed in that it was a red card she earned against Caesar Rodney. “I really should have held my tongue, but I didn’t. So I was asked to leave,” Vance stated sheepishly. Sandoval-Haro really enjoyed the progress the team made in her final year. “While we might not have gotten as many wins as we had hoped, it was great to see how far we came as a team,” she said. Cantu was thrilled to have the opportunity to play for Howard in her final season as a Buccaneer. “Getting a new coach can be a real challenge, but coach Howard was great for us. We improved greatly in so many areas and it was all because of him,” she said.
With the season concluded, Howard is hoping that he gets another shot to coach the team next season. “I am definitely going to apply for the job next season. It is a lot of work but it is so rewarding to watch them grow as players and people,” Howard stated.
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