By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- Conventional soccer wisdom holds that the most dangerous times of the match for a team on the defensive are the opening minutes of each half.
A close second might be the immediate aftermath of giving up a goal.
Host Strasburg discovered the pitfalls of both in Friday's season-opening girls soccer match against Bull Run District rival Manassas Park.
The Cougars notched the game-tying goal just two minutes into the second half, then picked up the go-ahead goal just more than two minutes later in an eventual 4-1 victory.
Rams coach Katherine Klus was on red alert after Manassas Park knotted the score at 1-all on a Strasburg own goal off a deflection. Manassas Park's Ari Winske made that play happen with a run down the right side of the penalty area and a quick slicing shot to the box.
Sure enough, the Rams had another lapse just about two minutes later, when Manassas Park's Taylor Limer converted from in front of the box off Winske's corner kick. Limer's initial shot was knocked away by Strasburg freshman goalkeeper Haley Bischoff, but the second chance came with an open net at close range and Limer didn't miss as she put the Cougars up 2-1 with 36:21 to play.
"That really affects what's going on mentally with the team," Klus said. "And you could see that with our team today in the second half. They scored in the first three minutes, and these girls shut down just for a few minutes and more goals went in."
Strasburg played more than even with the Cougars in the first half, taking the lead on freshman Amelia Guthrie's long ball from the top of the penalty area. Manassas Park goalkeeper Abby Sowalla got her fingertips on Guthrie's rising shot, but the ball slipped through for the game's first goal with 27:35 left in the first half.
The Rams even seemed to have luck on their side later in the first half when Winske slipped free on a breakaway, but misfired when she hit a rough patch of turf just as she was kicking the ball toward the net.
No such luck in the second half followed Strasburg. Already up a goal, the Cougars added on with 12:25 when Lily Guerra followed on her own miss for a goal.
About a minute and a half later, Winske struck again for the game's final goal.
Bischoff had five saves for the Rams, and Sowalla finished with five for the Cougars.
"We're a very young team," Klus said. "We graduated a lot of seniors [from] last year. We have a lot of talent that I'm excited about. It's just getting these girls to know one another on the field -- we've been inside a lot, in the gym because of the snow. They're just trying to get a rhythm going, and I think that will happen."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>