STRASBURG – The challenges are there for Strasburg’s boys soccer team.

As is the case each season, the Rams must replace graduation losses, although this year that job was made more complicated by the graduations of Jacob Knapp, the program’s all-time leading goal scorer, and multi-year starting goalkeeper Trent Perry.

Strasburg, which won only three matches in 2018, also has a small roster this season composed of 14 players, and head coach Joel Ross said this week he’d supplement his roster with junior varsity players as needed throughout the season.

“But all that said, the attitude and the work ethic is higher,” Ross said on Monday after laying out the obstacles entering the 2019 season. “… We had a few attitude issues last year; a couple people quit the team. Some of that was because they weren’t having fun playing with players; some of that was losing games. That was harder than not winning all the games we wanted to win last year, was just the attitudes to work with. This year I don’t have any of that, so as a coach I’m actually more excited about this season than I have been for a couple years.”

Though the Rams dropped from 15 combined wins over the 2016 and 2017 seasons to a 3-14-2 record last spring, Strasburg did qualify for its first-ever Region 2B tournament appearance when Knapp’s hat-trick fueled a comeback win over Madison County in the Bull Run District quarterfinals.

Strasburg now has to find a way to pick up the slack after the losses of Knapp and Vinny Volpini, who combined to score 18 of the Rams’ 21 goals in 2018. Of the Ram returnees, only senior midfielder Matt Thompson scored a goal last season.

Ross said foreign-exchange student Thibaut Bouteiller, a forward, is a “good finisher” who could step in as one of Strasburg’s primary goalscorers this season. Ross added that Thompson and fellow midfielder Timmy Dagalidis have goal-scoring ability, as do junior-varsity callups Dylan Baker, C.J. Davis and Seth Nicholson.

“They’re doing well right now in practice,” Ross said of that young trio. “We’ll kind of have to see what we look like against another team before we know for sure.”

Daniel Eyring, a junior, will take over as Strasburg’s new goalkeeper.

“He was our JV goalie last year, and he grew, which helps,” Ross said. “Plus he played travel soccer in the fall, and I heard he had a really good season. He’s been doing really well.”

In all, Ross estimated that Strasburg, which has five seniors (Bouteiller, Thompson and defenders Landen Elliott, Adam Knapp and Greg Mason), returned five regular starters from the 2018 season, and added that players like junior Christian Quite-Marquez and Colin Hadley got spot starts a year ago.

Ross, whose team opens the season with a game at Broadway on Tuesday, said Monday he hadn’t yet discussed goals or expectations for the upcoming season.

“I usually start the season just preaching play good soccer, be positive regardless of the outcome. It’s usually once we get into district play that we start to talk about ‘this is the team we need to walk away with the win if we want to qualify (for the regional tournament).’ Of course, last season I talked about that all season long and then we ended up in the spot we didn’t want to be in,” Ross said, referring to the district quarterfinal match at Madison County that was for the Bull Run’s fourth and final spot in the Region 2B tournament. “We got my ultimate goal last season even though we didn’t win the games through the season that I told them they needed to win.”

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