Rams get complete effort in victory
STRASBURG – Strasburg assistant boys soccer coach Kyle May said the turning point of Wednesday’s match was Josue Medrano’s goal just before halftime. Warren County coach Shane Lilly said the game-changing moment actually happened 15 minutes earlier, when the Wildcats came up empty on a penalty kick.
No matter which moment truly turned the tide in Strasburg’s favor, one thing was clear Wednesday night: The Rams played one of their most consistent matches of the season in a 3-1 Bull Run District victory to snap their three-game slide.
“Although we didn’t score initially we kept the intensity up, kept the pressure and we kind of put them off their game. We kept possession of the ball and when we scored we just never let up,” May said. “We just finally played our game. And we played a complete game, a complete 80-minute game and just closed them out.”
The match could’ve easily tilted in Warren County’s favor midway through the first half, when Wildcats senior Drew Wilson drew a foul as he pushed into the penalty box on a breakaway to set up a penalty kick opportunity in the 23rd minute.
As Wildcats leading goal scorer Jorge Figueroa lined up for the penalty kick, Rams senior keeper Damion Howard-Wolford began verbally challenging the sophomore. Figueroa then fired a shot that Howard-Wolford blocked while lunging to his left to keep the scoreless tie intact.
“It’s pretty much just an intimidation game,” said Howard-Wolford, who finished with nine saves. “That’s all you have to do. You just have to intimidate the guy, and that’s pretty much what I did and guessed it right.
“You have to be a little bit cocky, stand your ground. Get in their head, because they will mess up if you get in their head.”
Howard-Wolford was visibly energized by the save, and the rest of his teammates followed suit.
“After that, you saw how fast we were going,” the senior keeper said. “We were intense, we were even more aggressive than before because we started out pretty sluggish.”
Strasburg (5-7, 3-7 Bull Run) mustered only four shots in the first half, but made good on its final attempt of the first 40 minutes when Medrano fired a low shot from the left side of the box that skipped through the arms of Warren County (5-7, 3-7) senior goalkeeper Josh Butler (six saves).
May said the goal, which came during stoppage time in the final two minutes of the half, was “vital.”
“Kind of up until that moment, halfway through the first half I could sense that our guys were starting to get frustrated (from) not scoring on their opportunities, and also they started getting a little heavy-legged,” May said. “But scoring that goal gave us more fire, gave us more energy and I was really proud of them. They kept their heads.”
Lilly called the Rams’ goal a “huge” blow to the Wildcats, but said the momentum had already begun swinging in Strasburg’s favor following the penalty kick.
“Just not being able to finish the PK really set us back and you could feel a little wind go out and we didn’t play the rest of the half like we should’ve,” Lilly said.
Strasburg needed just 13 minutes in the second half to strike again. Senior Alex Medrano – who assisted his younger brother’s goal in the first half – showed off some fancy footwork when he dribbled around a pair of defenders, then poked a pass into the middle of the box to Kyle Tiemeyer, who fired a 15-yard shot into the net.
The goal gave the Rams a 2-0 lead, the same advantage they squandered in an overtime loss to the Wildcats back on April 8. Strasburg wasn’t going to let that lead slip away twice.
“Something we learned was we just lost a little focus, and this game we kind of stepped it up,” Alex Medrano said. “We just focused on that, to not lose our focus and play our hardest the whole time.”
Alex Medrano all but sealed the victory with a breakaway goal with three minutes left to put the Rams up 3-0.
Warren County finally broke the shutout in stoppage time when Wilson lined a shot from the top of the box that deflected off Rams defender Logan Smalls, then glanced off Howard-Wolford’s hand before sailing into the net.
Though Warren County out-shot the Rams 17-13, Strasburg’s defense was able to limit the scoring chances for Figueroa, who had three goals in the teams’ first meeting. May said senior defender Justin Carr took responsibility of marking up the Wildcats’ speedster after Smalls went down with an ankle injury in the first half.
“They singled (Figueroa) out and that’s rough for us because we’re not finding much scoring options out of that right now,” Lilly said. “I’ve challenged them a couple times to fix that problem but it doesn’t seem at this moment that anybody wants to step up. Drew Wilson’s done his fair share but I’d really like more out of my midfield to take a little longer shots and be banging them in.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org