By Jeff Nations
Strasburg High School's boys soccer team is benefiting more than ever from friendly international relations.
The Rams have three players on the roster from foreign countries, and all are making a positive impact this season.
"One of our teachers runs one of the exchange programs in our area, and so he frequently gets soccer players as exchange students at our school," Strasburg coach Joel Ross said last week. "This is my fifth year as a coach, and only one year have I not had exchange players on my team. It's been really helpful to our program, but you only get them for one year."
It's shaping up to be a pretty good year for Strasburg, off to a 1-1-1 start so far. Much of that success can be attributed to the nimble passing of forward Nico Cavallini a foreign-exchange student from Switzerland who's quickly become a deadly combination with fellow Rams forward Nathan Spencer.
Cavallini has assisted on all three of Spencer's goals this season, and has one of his own to account for all of Strasburg's scoring so far this year.
The Rams also have Mate Gergely, a foreign-exchange student of Hungarian descent who lives in Slovakia, as their starting goalkeeper. Sal San, a foreign-exchange student from Cambodia, has seen extensive time as a defender this season.
Their efforts have helped Strasburg already match last season's win total, when the Rams struggled to a 1-14-2 record.
Cavallini, who played on a club team that practiced five days a week year-round in Switzerland, has been impressed by the level of competition he's found in America.
"Of course, there aren't as many people playing soccer over here as there are in Europe, but still we have a good team," Cavallini said. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the season."
RELOADED: Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy girls soccer coach Dustin Wheelock could have been forgiven if he'd harbored any misgivings about this season.
After all, the Patriots lost tons of scoring off last year's 21-2-1 squad that advanced to the Virginia Association of Christian Athletics (VACA) state championship game.
Wheelock never did give the vibe of a worried coach, though, and its now apparent why as the Patriots are off to a 2-0 start and have shown no issues with scoring.
Senior Megan Norton has been unstoppable so far for SVCA, tallying seven goals and four assists in the Patriots' two victories. If this past weekend's SVCA Invitational counted -- the five 30-minute matches were considered exhibitions -- then Norton would have doubled her scoring output.
"Out of all the goals we've had, many of them she's been involved in some way," Wheelock said of Norton. "She's a very skilled player. Last year we knew what she could do with the ball, but her natural style is to pass the ball and be more of a playmaker."
The Patriots also have another dangerous scorer in Hannah McGann, who has three goals and three assists this year.
SVCA picked up another potential impact player from the baseball team this year, as sophomore Sam Yarnall elected to come out for soccer this year instead. A standout basketball player, Yarnall is still playing that sport on weekends for her AAU team, the Winchester Rising Stars.
"She kind of has that as her top priority right now," Wheelock said of Yarnall's AAU commitment. "I got her in for about four minutes in our first game, and she played about half the game in our second game. She looked good. She did a good job."
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Sherando's boys soccer team is off to a 2-0 start this season, and opposing teams might have a hard time deciding who to mark up this year judging by the Warriors' scoring distribution.
In a 3-0 season-opening win over Broadway on Saturday, three different Sherando players scored goals. Then in Monday's 3-2 win against Potomac Falls, Sherando again got goals from three different players -- not the same three as Saturday.
So far this year, Seth Wade, Jack Flanagan, Tanner Wernecke, Jov Hall, Zach Wagner and Sean Buono have tallied goals for Sherando.
The assists are nearly as varied, but not quite -- Andrew Mullan has two, while Andrew Wade, Rhett Morris, Flanagan and Buono have one each.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>