SMITHFIELD — It took Emily Truelove and her Cleveland Rams teammates a seven-minute span to demonstrate the difference between those having field experience and those without.
Truelove, a junior splitting time between midfield and forward, needed just four minutes to make her presence felt in the Rams’ Two Rivers 3A Conference soccer match with Smithfield-Selma.
That presence began as she took an inbounds pass, worked her way up the left sideline and across the end line, drawing Spartans goalkeeper Caroline Carter to the left post. With Carter committed, Truelove sent a cross into the goal crease, where Courtney Moss deposited the ball into the goal and a 1-0 Cleveland lead.
It was the first of three assists for Truelove, who also tallied four goals as the Rams rolled to 9-0 mercy rule victory in a match halted 13 minutes into the second half.
Both coaches, Kristian Stewart of the Spartans and Marissa DiMarco of the Rams, suggested the experience of their squads played a pivotal role in the outcome.
“We were completely unorganized when we stepped on the field,” said Stewart, whose team slipped to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the Two Rivers Conference.
“We haven’t practiced a lot because of the weather, so we are going to play just like we practice. There is a direct correlation.”
Stewart also pointed to the youth of his team, which includes five freshmen, including Carter, and five sophomores.
DiMarco countered with the schedule of her team, which improved to 5-3-1 overall and 2-0 in league play.
“We came out ready to play,” DiMarco said. “We’ve had some very tough games in the beginning of our schedule, and just came off a big win over (Big East 3A Conference perennial power) Wilson Hunt.
DiMarco listed early season 4A opponents such as Raleigh Athens Drive, Wilmington Laney, Clayton and West Johnston as preparation for the Rams’ conference schedule.
“We played these teams because they are bigger, stronger and faster than us,” DiMarco said. “Because of that, we’ve been playing well and working better together.”
That statement was proven as the Rams, behind Truelove, added goal five and six eight minutes later. Truelove picked up her second assist of the afternoon by taking the ball up the left side of the field and sending a cross to Brittany Preston who finished for a 2-0 lead.
“Emily is definitely one of the most talented players I’ve seen,” DiMarco said. “She uses finesse, has a nice touch on the ball and sees the field perfectly.
“Even today, she probably could have scored all nine goals, but she was trying to set the other girls up to score.”
Preston delivered her first of two assists in the match, sending a through ball to Morris, who picked up her second goal 11 minutes in and a 3-0 cushion.
“We definitely sent a message with those three goals,” DiMarco said, “That we wanted to come out hard.”
Down but not out, the Spartans began to counter-attack and pressure Rams goalkeeper Katelyn Lowery, only to come up empty. Smithfield-Selma’s first solid run saw a ball pass through the Rams’ goal crease, but the Spartans had no one in position to finish. With 18:45 left in the first half, Kara Harrison fired a shot wide right of the goal after taking a through ball from Johanna Torres after Parker Watson had won the ball at midfield.
“If they had been able to score those goals,” DiMarco said, “It would have been a different situation altogether.”
Through balls victimized the Spartans throughout the remainder of the match, which disturbed Stewart.
“We were sitting back on our heels,” Stewart said, “Just waiting for Cleveland to attack us. They just kept booming the balls right by us.”
Truelove scored her initial goal 27 minutes in on a through ball from Shelby Davenport for a 4-0 lead, and Claire Johnson broke through the Spartans defense a minute later for a 5-0 margin at halftime.
Through balls provided Truelove with her three second half goals on passes from Preston, Hannah Evans and Davenport respectively. Truelove picked up her third assist of the match on a through ball to Evans, making the score 8-0.