By Jeff Nations
QUICKSBURG -- This was a long time coming for Juan Luna.
With both scrimmages cancelled and the season opener held up a day due to inclement weather, Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team was plenty impatient to finally get the season started with Wednesday's rescheduled matchup against Strasburg.
Luna could justifiably chuckle at his teammates' collective impatience, considering the wait he's endured to return to the pitch for the Generals. Luna's well-chronicled efforts to regain eligibility after missing what would have been his senior season due to an eight-month forced stay in his native Mexico as he attempted to obtain his U.S. permanent residency card ended shortly before this school year. Still, getting back on the soccer field after so long away wasn't at all anti-climatic.
Luna needed less than 20 minutes to pick up his first assist of the season, less than 30 to notch his first goal in Stonewall's 5-0 victory.
"It felt great," Luna said. "Last year I came back March 7, and I followed them all through the season, knowing I could've been out there with them. It's all good now."
Plugged in a starting midfield spot, Luna helped the Generals open with a strong offensive effort. Stonewall peppered the Rams' goal with 30 shots in all.
The Generals broke through in the first minute, when David Dodson slipped a pass to teammate Roberto Cardoso in the penalty area. Cardoso outran Strasburg's defense, then tapped a kick past Rams goalkeeper Jonathan Kloosterman to put his team up a goal with 39:09 left in the half.
Luna got into the scoring act nearly 20 minutes later, when he pushed a pass straight toward the goal and into the penalty area to Dodson. From there, Dodson finished by creating space against a pair of Strasburg defenders, then flicking a shot inside the right post to put the Generals up 2-0.
Nearly 10 minutes after that, Luna showed off his leg strength with a blast from just outside the penalty box. Teammate Ed Juarez picked up the assist with a cross, and Luna unleashed a slicing ball that skipped off Kloosterman's hands and into the net.
"Last year he was generally at or around practice every now and then, so he's definitely been in a close environment with everyone," Golladay said of Luna.
Making his soccer debut after competing in track last year, Kloosterman was busy throughout for the Rams. He finished with 12 saves.
"He's an excellent athlete," Strasburg coach Joel Ross said of Kloosterman, who hadn't played organized soccer since elementary school before this season. "His success in football and basketball is going to carry over here."
After managing just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes, the Rams produced their best scoring chance early in the second half when John Murphy connected on a wicked rising shot from the top of the penalty box. Generals goalkeeper Ryan Zerkle got his hand on the ball and tipped it upward into the crossbar, where it bounced back into the box and was cleared by Stonewall's defense.
Stonewall's Jonas Jacuinde added on to the lead with an unassisted goal with 28:36 to play, beating Kloosterman with a slicing shot into the back of the net.
"These games really help us out, to just harness our skills and make us better," Luna said.
The final goal came on a Strasburg own goal with just more than 12 minutes to play.
Despite the loss, Ross saw some positives from his squad. After a ragged first half that Ross described as "frantic and rushed," the Rams played much better on the 40 minutes. Like Stonewall, it was Strasburg's first time on the field against an opponent this season.
"We had some good moments," Ross said. "We've gone through the whole preseason and haven't had any chance to play against another team. I think I have a quality group of players on the field, but in practice when you don't have 11 other players to play against it's easy to get used to the amount of time that you have, the lack of pressure."
For Golladay, the day marked a win in his coaching debut. Just three years after graduating from Stonewall Jackson, Golladay is in his junior year at Eastern Mennonite. His familiarity as a former player and as a volunteer assistant with the program helped ease the transition, but Golladay admitted afterward he wasn't quite sure what he'd see from his squad Wednesday.
"They did a lot better with moving the ball than I'd expected," Golladay said. "Their movement off the ball and on the ball, I thought it was very good for the first game out."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>