Milford fall sports set to begin tonight

MILFORD — Summer’s over, kids are back in school and the fall sports season is set to begin.

With the new year comes change for Milford’s athletic programs, as the Buccaneers enter the season with a new athletic director.

Milford football has a new look too, as Shaun Strickland has taken over the program. The girls’ volleyball team also welcomed new head coach Gary Wissler.

Other than that, and of course the new faces in the high school, things are mostly the same at Milford.

Here’s a look at what the Buccaneers of their respective sports are bringing into the new campaign.

Football

Coach: Shaun Strickland

2014 record: 1-9 overall, 1-5 Henlopen South

First game: Friday versus Red Lion, 7:30 p.m., at home

New Milford head coach Shaun Strickland and the Bucs begin their season tonight. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

New Milford head coach Shaun Strickland and the Bucs begin their season tonight. (The Chronicle/Jeff Mitchell)

Outlook: In with the new. Head coach that is.

This season Milford will have a different head coach for the first time in nearly a decade and a half, as Shaun Strickland is taking over the program.

Despite inheriting a team that went 1-9 last season, Strickland has stayed positive throughout the preseason.

Rather than setting typical goals like winning a state title, the new coach instead is looking forward to seeing how the team – which is led by captains Tyler Norwood, Ryan Jones, Jose Ortiz and David Bowman – handles adversity.

“(Our) team goal is to give it 150 percent each day and every week, and to continue our growth as a team,” he said. “To get through all adversity together and help move this program forward. And to help these young men grow as students, athletes and leaders in their community.”

Milford hosts Red Lion Christian Friday, 7:30 p.m., in its season opener.

Boys’ soccer

Coach: Todd French

2014 record: 7-6-2 overall, 5-1 Henlopen South

First match: Saturday versus Appoquinimink, 11:30 a.m., at Dover High

Outlook: In his first season as Milford’s boys’ soccer coach, Todd French guided the Buccaneers to a winning record overall and to a second place finish in the Henlopen South.

But, the Bucs narrowly missed out on a Division II playoff bid.

French and his 2015 team are hoping to change their fate this season and get Milford back into the postseason for the first time in recent memory,

“Our goals are still the same, make the tourney and have a successful run,” French said. “We certainly have the talent to do so, but you never know how the tough schedule will play out.”

Although Milford lost the service of two all-staters to graduation, the Bucs return multiple talented players, French said. Co-captains are Derrick Bogan and Evenson Dieudonne, and other leaders figure to be Matt Mitzel, Kiki Torres and Esnider Mondestin.

Where the Buccaneers are still a work in progress, however, is at goalie. Depth, French said, could also be an issue.

“Freshman Jaxson Turner and senior Tyler Millman have no real experience but are battling for the starting (keeper) role,” French said. “We are low on numbers this year, therefore our depth is questionable.”

Milford’s season begins Saturday, 11:30 a.m., versus Appoquinimink at Dover High.

Field hockey

Coach: Andrea Fleming

2014 record: 8-6-1 overall, 7-5-1 Henlopen Conference

First game: Sept. 15, 4 p.m., at Woodbridge

Outlook: Milford’s 2014 season was a roller coaster ride.

The high points of the season included playing powerhouse Delmar to a tie, nearly upsetting Polytech before falling by a goal and besting rival Lake Forest.

But the lows included losses to struggling teams like Indian River and St. Mark’s.

All of it added up to a winning season but not a playoff birth. The latter is something head coach Andrea Fleming would like to see change this season.

“(Our goals are to) get back in the state tournament (and play) at a high level of intensity every game,” she said.

Although the Lady Bucs lost a pair of talented players – Kasey Fry (now at Wesley College) and Kayla Brennan (now at Arcadia College) – to graduation, multiple girls return to the team after earning all-conference accolades last year.

Included in the group of all-conference returnees are Rajene Bowe, Kate Melvin, Hayden Shockley, Megan Fry, Daphne Leighty and Margaret Sollie. Milford should also get strong play from senior Courtney Lingo, junior Deja Rodriguez and sophomore Darby Brennan.

The Bucs begin the season Tuesday, 4:15 p.m., at Woodbridge.

Field hockey

Coach: Gary Wissler

2014 record: 5-9 overall, 3-9 Henlopen Conference

First game: Sept. 15, 5 p.m., at Sussex Tech

Outlook: New girls’ volleyball head coach Gary Wissler is taking over a program still in the building phase.

Adding another block to the foundation is likely the overall goal for this season, as Wissler inherits a team that brings back only two returning players with varsity experience – senior Amber Davis and junior Madison Rogers. Both, Wissler said, will be counted on for experience and were named captains.

Five juniors will be key members of the team this season, Kim Johnson, Genesis Chamberlayne, Amanda Nordberg, Deanna Maloney and Kiera Lunsford.

“Our goal is to continue to improve as we go through the season and to compete in every match,” Wissler said. “This includes our junior varsity program. We have a great young group that makes us feel good about the future. Assistant coach Pat Darlin brings a wealth of experience and together we hope to continue to move this program in the right direction.”

Milford opens the season Tuesday, 5 p.m., at Sussex Tech.

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

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