Rams fall to Eagles in Conference 35 tourney

STRASBURG — One of Strasburg’s biggest weaknesses this season, hurt the Rams on Monday night.

The Rams’ inability to mark up on defense at times proved costly in a 3-1 loss to Clarke County in the Conference 35 boys soccer tournament quarterfinals.

“I believe every single one of their three goals was a direct result of us not having every man marked, leaving some openings in the defense and not stepping to the men and just letting the guy get through,” Strasburg coach Joel Ross said. “That is sort of what we’ve been working on all season. That’s sort of been the biggest problem we’ve had all season is keeping the opposing offense tightly marked and not allowing them those opening men.”

Things started off well for the Rams as they took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Matt Thompson.

The Eagles (6-11) came back around halfway through the first half on a goal by Ian Smith, who had a hat trick in the game.

“We didn’t play terribly the first half hour,” Ross said. “We were good and aggressive, controlled most of the game, got up a point. I don’t know. We got tired and did not stay marked up on the defense.”

Clarke County scored quickly in the second half. Smith made a move on Strasburg goalkeeper Trent Perry in the box and put it past him for a 2-1 lead with 33 minutes left.

“I just trapped it in the box, and I knew that he would commit to the ball side,” Smith said. “So I just cut back to the right, and hit it with my left foot and it went in.”

Smith added another goal with 12 minutes left. Luis Camacho-Bruno, who had two assists, sent a shot into the box and it bounced around, hit off of Smith’s knee and into the net for a 3-1 edge.

The two teams split their regular season meetings, with Strasburg beating Clarke County 6-0 the last time the teams met. Smith said that served as an extra motivator for the Eagles.

“We really wanted to win this game,” Smith said. “We all worked really hard.”

Clarke County coach Patrick Casey said that Smith has been a real pleasant surprise for his team this season.

“We had him playing in the back in the beginning of the year,” Casey said. “Due to various circumstances we had to move him up top and he’s really flourished. He has the ability to kind of grab the game by the horns and really take it to them. He does a really good job of driving at guys and making them work.”

The Eagles will now play top-seeded George Mason today in the conference semifinals. Clarke County lost 2-1 to George Mason last week, and Smith said the team is looking forward to playing them again.

“We just had a rough game against Mason,” Smith said. “I was really hoping to play them again and this game is just a step in getting there.”

Strasburg (8-8) was battling injuries during the game. Ross said that Jacob Knapp did not play because he cut his foot in the shower Monday, and leading scorer Kyle Tiemeyer has been battling an injury.

“Kyle Tiemeyer is probably at about 70 percent of his usual speed,” Ross said. “So having an injured striker who’s playing and then an injured striker who’s not playing — two of my leading goal scorers. That’s rough. That’s rough.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com