STRASBURG — Strasburg’s girls soccer team took strides last season that didn’t show up in the Rams’ won-loss record.
A program starved for wins in recent seasons, Strasburg picked up two victories in the first season under head coach Kayla Allen in 2018, bringing the Rams’ total wins over the last two years to five after they went winless in 2015 and 2016. And while two wins don’t sound like much, it’s the losses that spoke of the progress Strasburg took last spring.
The Rams were more competitive in defeat last season, even against their stiffest competition, turning in losses of two- and three-goal margins rather than regularly falling victim to the eight-goal mercy rule.
The next step in 2019 is to turn some of those close losses into wins, and Allen said last week she’s hoping the Rams’ offseason work helps them turn that corner. All but three of Strasburg’s 17 varsity players competed on the same fall travel team, she said, and the Rams also took part in an indoor league over the winter.
“That’s what sort of our focus was in the fall and the winter and being able to play together as a team in those times was that really all of our issues are just the ability to finish,” Allen said. “Like everything was happening, the setup was right, the defense was strong and that’s why (in) these games we weren’t being blown out anymore. But I think that just getting them in front of a goal over the offseason, and we scored a lot in the fall, in travel, and we scored a lot in indoor because indoor’s so fast-paced. Just being able to find goals in that offseason, I think, gave them a lot more confidence going into this season, knowing that ‘I know how to do this.’”
The table is set for the Rams to produce more offensively than they did a season ago.
Of the seven girls who combined for the 21 goals Strasburg scored in 2018, five of them have returned. That includes junior Hannah Peer, who leads the Rams with 15 goals scored over the past two seasons, and classmates Morgan Bible (six goals in 2018) and Mary Carter (three goals).
Peer also led Strasburg with five assists last season, while junior Brittany Coffelt and Bible added four and three assists, respectively.
In all, Allen said 12 of Strasburg’s 17 players were on the varsity squad last season, adding that she “absolutely” expects to see more production in 2019. That would mean a change in identity for a Strasburg squad that Allen noted has been more defensive-minded in years past.
“Our defense has always been a strength but it’s because they’ve had to be because we haven’t been able to produce. And I think that some of our strongest players are our offensive players, so I think that we could easily be an offensive team,” Allen said. “We’ve built ourselves to do that. We’re gonna be working with some new formations this year that are more offensive because I found that we are confident in our defense and our defenders are confident … but it makes us sort of rest on them a little bit more than we should. And I think this season it’s really gonna be like all 11 of my players are gonna be on the attack, that way we are always shooting for those goals.”
That’s not to say Allen doesn’t think Strasburg will still be strong defensively. Though Allen admitted the Rams took their greatest hit from graduation losses on defense, senior Debra Dillman — who joined Peer as a second team All-Bull Run District honoree last season — and junior Karly Colcombe return to anchor the team’s back line.
Strasburg also should benefit from the return of junior goalkeeper Samantha Simpson, who led the Rams with 96 saves last season but suffered a shoulder injury after two district matches. Allen added that freshman Kenley Smith is a “strong option” in goal and in the field and could contend for playing time at either spot.
The Rams open the 2019 season Tuesday with a home match against Broadway, and with only two seniors — Dillman and fellow defender Kiana Carter — on the roster, Allen said this is the group to establish the foundation of future success for Strasburg’s girls soccer program.
“It’s such a good core,” Allen said. “And last year we spent a lot of time figuring out the style of soccer that I wanted out of them, the patient kind of soccer that we haven’t done before, because the kick-and-run sort of soccer works but it doesn’t work against the highly competitive teams that we want to compete against. I saw moments of that last year, and now that they’ve had that year of varsity, the fall, the winter, our ball movement and our passing and our ability to possess is so much better than it has been before. And I think that we’ll be able to do something.”