STRASBURG – The prospect of playing at the varsity level in any high school sport can be a daunting one for some freshmen. Hannah Peer had no such qualms about doing so with Strasburg High School’s girls soccer team last season.
Peer, reflecting back on her varsity debut last Friday, said she’d been well prepared to make an immediate impact with the Rams in 2017 due to her extensive experience in the sport, which began when she was 4 years old and has included many seasons with local travel teams along the way.
“When I was younger I always played up, like when I was 11 I played on U16 teams,” Peer, a sophomore, said, “and it helped me play up to a level, so when I got to varsity it was kind of the same thing. I feel like playing travel ball when I was little helped me do that.”
Peer proved she belonged last spring, as she immediately emerged as the Rams’ leading scorer while striking for seven goals in 2017 and earning second-team All-Bull Run District honors.
The sophomore is now a year older, a year stronger due to the team’s new emphasis on the weight room and a year wiser after running the gauntlet of a full varsity season. The expectation, new head coach Kayla Allen said, is that Peer is even better when the Rams kick off their 2018 season on Tuesday at Broadway.
“We’ve already been working on her composure in front of goal and sort of taking that moment and taking on the goalie successfully. She’s really embraced that,” said Allen, who served as the junior varsity coach under former head coach Katherine Klus that past two seasons. “She’s really easy to coach and I think she’s really gonna be able to sort of flourish in the formation that we’re using this year and just sort of a style of play we’re using this year. I think she’s gonna get a lot of goals. That’s sort of the plan.”
Allen said Strasburg, which went 3-13-1 last spring after back-to-back winless seasons in 2015 and 2016, is undergoing a mentality shift this year in order to generate more confidence.
For Peer, who scored over half of the Rams’ 13 goals last season, that rise in confidence figures to boost her goal-scoring chances, particularly in one-on-one opportunities against the opposing goalkeeper. Last season, Peer said, she became “flustered” at times in those situations, started to over think and rushed a shot that likely could’ve been made more effective with more patience.
“(Allen has) worked with me a lot with one-on-one with the goalie and I feel like once I get that down I’ll be able to be more effective with my shots and be more efficient on my passes, like to my outside, making them more accurate,” Peer said. “And just being calm and waiting for a good shot, not rushing it and forcing anything.”
Finding that composure in front of the net would round out a skill set that Allen said allows Peer to thrive as a goal scorer. Peer possesses the speed to create breakaway chances, and her dribbling ability and strength help her generate one-on-one opportunities in the box.
“Her strength is there and that’s where we’re gonna start working on the placement of things and make sure the finer things are there,” Allen said. “Really she’s the kind of player that if she’s in the 18, that ball’s going in because she will muscle her way in or she will fight, crawl and do what it takes. That’s what you look for in a forward is someone who wants it, and she wants it.”
For Strasburg to truly succeed this spring, the Rams will need to find more scorers around Peer. Allen said this year’s team is better equipped to provide those complementary scorers, and she fired off a list of names that included fellow sophomore forwards Morgan Bible and Brittany Coffelt and midfielders Mary Carter (another sophomore), Debra Dillman and Ashleigh Hockman as players who could be asked to score more in 2018.
“I think we are set to create a lot of finishers,” Allen said, “and I don’t think you can count any of our forwards or midfielders out as far as that goes because that’s the idea, is that I don’t wanna be a team that if you shut down one, you shut down us. We’re truly going to be an offensive force and (Peer’s) gonna be the highlight of it.”
Asked how the Rams hope to create more scoring opportunities this season, Peer said the team has worked on improving its defense while focusing on making short, smarter passes instead of “just booting (the ball) up the field.”
“We do a lot more touching, shooting, and I just feel like that stuff’s really effective for us and it helps us become more confident,” Peer said. “… (Allen) knows we have potential so she does stuff that makes us get there because she knows we can be there.”