FRONT ROYAL – A familiar face took over Warren County’s girls soccer program this season when former assistant Erly Moya stepped up following the departure of former head coach Mike Carpenter. Moya’s style and strategy, however, is taking some getting used to.
“I’ve started a new thing this year which is just ball possession and our passes,” Moya said before practice on Thursday afternoon. “We’ve been working a lot on passing and passing and passing. That’s all we do pretty much at practice because I want us to be able to pass the ball. And they’ve stuck to that. We’ve suffered some of that through getting scored on because of our passing, but it’s a philosophy that we’re gonna keep on going because I have a lot of faith in it.”
As Moya expected, the Wildcats’ new playing style has been a work in progress, one that could take as long as the second half of the season to begin producing as the first-year head coach intends.
Entering Friday’s home match against Spotsylvania, Warren County was 1-2 overall after splitting a pair of meetings with Strasburg – a program that broke a streak of two straight winless seasons with three victories in 2017 – and suffering a lopsided 9-1 loss to a young but very talented Sherando squad.
Moya, whose team scored three goals in its first three games, hasn’t been discouraged by the slow start, however. He’s seen the Wildcats accepting and adapting to his style of play, he said, even if it hasn’t translated into much success just yet.
“You can see the work that they’ve done,” said Moya, who served as the Wildcats’ assistant coach for three seasons and has coached travel soccer for nine years. “It’s not good enough yet, we’ve won one game out of three, but we’re getting better every single game.”
Warren County’s new playing style – which emphasizes less reliance on long balls to generate scoring opportunities and more on working possession from back to front and methodically moving the ball down the field – isn’t entirely unfamiliar to the Wildcats. A handful of the team’s varsity players – Moya’s daughter, Lisette, among them – have played for Moya on a local travel team for several years.
“We’re really young but we’ve all played at higher-level soccer, which is a good thing that we haven’t had in years past,” said Lisette, a senior and four-year varsity player. “So I feel like we’re all almost at the same level but it’s playing together that we’re not used to yet, which we’re struggling with a little. But I definitely think we’re getting there.”
Lisette Moya – who has led the Wildcats in goals each of the past two seasons and scored 22 times in 2016 – and fellow senior Shauna Sayers (24 career goals) provide Warren County with a pair of proven goal scorers this spring, but each has yet to score in 2018.
Two of the Wildcats’ goals entering Friday came off the foot of freshman Clara Sanchez Bonneau, while junior defensive midfielder Kaley Foulks scored the other.
Lisette said injuries, coupled with an already thin roster, have hampered the Wildcats’ progression in their new system by forcing some players into unfamiliar positions.
“Once we start to figure out how to play these positions and how he wants us to play these positions,” Lisette said, “I think the goals will start to come with that.”
Coach Moya said he expects Lisette and Sayers, as well as freshman Kyrsta Hutchings, to join Sanchez as the key contributors in an offensive attack that could prove to be the team’s biggest strength by season’s end.
“Once we get our footing going on I think they’re gonna be a good team when it comes to scoring, because they do know how to move the ball pretty well,” Coach Moya said.
“It’s taking a little bit but … once they get that defined they’re gonna be unstoppable because they’re a good group of girls. They’re good.”
Warren County took a step back in 2017, going 3-12-1 after combining for 18 wins over the previous two seasons. The Wildcats have a quartet of four-year varsity players and three more juniors who played at the varsity level as freshmen in 2016, and both Lisette Moya and Hannah Pack said the team’s bond is stronger now than its ever been.
“I feel like we’re capable of a lot,” said Pack, a four-year varsity player and two-year starting goalkeeper. “We have a bunch of freshman on the team, so I think they have a lot of potential and we’re gonna get better throughout the season.
“I think we’re getting better at playing together,” she added. “We’re all forming a bond, which is nice.”