STRASBURG – Skyline High School’s boys soccer team isn’t exactly flush with varsity experience. A quick glance at the roster breakdown for the Hawks offers proof of that.
Of the 20 players on the team’s 2018 roster, over half are underclassmen, and sophomores – there are eight of them – are the majority class. Against Strasburg on Thursday night, the Hawks started all five of their seniors, one of the team’s four juniors, four sophomores and a freshman.
Skyline can probably expect the effects of that youth to pop up at various points this season, but the Hawks offered a glimpse of progress when they picked up their second victory over a winless Strasburg squad with a 4-2 non-district win on the road.
“We’re still working on it,” Hawks junior Micah Winningham said following the win, which came two days after an 8-0 loss to James Wood. “We’ve got some stuff to work on, and no doubt, (in) a couple more games we’ll be at a pretty good level.”
Skyline (2-1) entered the season searching for scorers after losing four players from last year’s team who combined for 36 of the team’s 45 goals. Matias Lozano, the team’s co-leader with 13 goals scored in 2017, was a foreign exchange student and is no longer at Skyline. Brody Jones, who matched Lozano’s output, and Ryan Scott did not return to the program for their senior seasons, and 2017 team captain Logan Porterfield moved away, according to Skyline head coach Steve Carey.
Winningham, himself a transplant from Hawaii in his first season with Skyline, showed on Thursday night he has the potential to be a go-to scoring option for the Hawks this spring. He struck for a goal in each half in the rematch against Strasburg and played a direct role in the Hawks’ other two goals in the victory.
Skyline mustered a lone goal in its win over the Rams back on March 15.
“(Winningham’s) caught in between getting himself acquainted and being the leader. He’s doing a great job balancing both,” Carey said.
“I think this was the first game that he was really comfortable in who he is and what he can do. We’ve talked to him during practice, ‘if you see it let it fly, see what happens.’ I think once he broke the ice he found himself.”
It was Winningham who put Skyline on the board against the scuffling Rams (0-5), as he got a touch on Hunter Peacock’s cornerkick that skipped all the way to the far post and scored less than six minutes into the action.
Winningham, who said he envisions himself being the aggressor at the top of Skyline’s offensive attack this season, set up the team’s second goal four minutes later when he fired a shot deep in the penalty box off a throw-in. Strasburg keeper Trent Perry got his hands on the shot, but Skyline freshman Noah Williams was there to follow-up on the deflection and poked the ball across the goal line for a 2-0 lead.
“That first goal’s huge,” Winningham said. “It sets the tone for the rest of the game, really, gives everybody good confidence and kind of like destroys the other team mentally.”
Skyline’s youth may have sprung to the forefront later in the first half when Strasburg erased the Hawks’ lead with a pair of goals in a 25-second span. Rams junior Matthew Avvenire scored the first when he followed up a rebound of his own miss with a goal in the 28th minute, and teammate Vinny Volpini scored off a nice feed through the Skyline defense just moments later to tie the match.
“We tell them the worst lead to have ever is 2-0 because once the other team gets the first one then momentum swings faster than you can tell,” Carey said. “When the first one went in we hoped to avoid the letdown, and fortunately we had the second half to recover from that.”
Skyline, which outshot the Rams 10-7 in the second half, needed only seven minutes in the second half to reclaim the lead for good when Winningham found the ball at his feet in the middle of the box following a cornerkick and scored his second goal of the night.
A Winningham assist to Peacock set up the game’s final goal with 20 minutes to play.
“We were playing really direct, getting the ball down on their defense,” Winningham said. “We’ve got some good speed up top, so that helps us out a lot.”
Skyline is coming off one of the program’s better seasons after going 6-11 in 2017, but is playing a much different schedule – featuring the additions of Brentsville, Culpeper County, Manassas Park and William Monroe – after the shakeup to the Northwestern District.
“We just wanna come together as a team and not get down on ourselves when things go (poorly),” Carey said. “That’s what can happen to a young team.”