The mission is nearly complete and the Seahawks are circling in, hoping to land on their ultimate goal: a DIAA Division II championship.
On a hot August day, Sussex Academy junior goalkeeper C.J. Norton was very blunt when he talked about the Seahawks' goals for the 2023 season.
“We have to win it all,” Norton said.
Sussex Academy is one win away from that goal after defeating Indian River 2-1 in the semifinals Nov. 15 in Milford.
The ball rarely entered either team’s final third, with much of the game playing out in the midfield. Sussex Academy controlled possession for most of the contest. IR, however, managed to find a crack in the Seahawks' defense 30 minutes into the game, as Leo Chester raced toward the goal with a head of steam. Cutting in at about the 10-yard mark, the junior blasted a shot past Norton to give IR the 1-0 lead.
Granted a corner with about three minutes to go in the opening half, the Seahawks felt that it was the opportune moment for one of their secret weapons – junior captain Andres Romero-Nieto. Donning No. 7 like Cristiano Ronaldo, Romero-Nieto used his powerful leg and delicate touch to strike a beautiful ball on goal. The ball weaved its way through four IR defenders, including the goalie, before striking twine. The half ended 1-1.
In the second half, IR tried a dump-and-chase tactic, while Sussex Academy tried to generate quality chances in front of the frame. In a twist of irony, the counter attack of the Seahawks proved to be the secret to a game-winner. At about the 67th minute, senior forward Andree Mendoza-Martinez raced to a through ball from Liam Stegall. Mendoz-Martinez buried it into the back of the net to give the Seahawks a 2-1 lead, which they would not relinquish.
“You just got to keep trying and not get frustrated,” Mendoza-Martinez said. “I had a couple of shots in the beginning, but it wasn't working. In this game, you have to keep on going, never give up, and put your head down to work.”
Sussex Academy will travel to Dover to play Saint Mark’s at 12 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18. A win would be the program’s first Division II championship.
“They still have this one final step,” said coach R.J. Dina. “I told the boys that the next game is the only important one. We won the [Henlopen] South, we won the Henlopen Conference. It means nothing if you don't go all the way. I told them that they haven’t won anything yet. We have work to do. They're excited and they should celebrate, but it's back to business tomorrow.”