By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy girls soccer coach Michael Rasey wants his Trojans to win a specific way.
“Each game we go into, our No. 1 goal is to get a shutout,” he said. “We have the players and the abilities that, if we keep going after it, the goals will come.”
Everything went according to plan against Xenia.
Facing a Buccaneer team that had not only won five straight, but had also outscored opponents 23-6 during that run — including a five-goal effort against familiar Troy rival Butler — the Trojan defense only allowed one quality scoring chance all night long. And on the other end, Troy found a way to convert its scoring chances despite a tough and creative Xenia defense, posting its fourth straight win with a 3-0 victory Wednesday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
It was also an important win for the Trojans, who improved to 5-1-1 on the season and 5-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division standings, remaining tied with Tippecanoe for first place after Sidney dropped a spot with a 0-0 tie against Trotwood.
“Last year, this game wouldn’t have meant a whole lot,” Rasey said. “But now, with 10 games counting in the division, we were able to go through all of the sister division games undefeated. That’s where you want to be going into games against teams like Butler, Sidney and Tipp.”
Xenia was the top team in the sister division, the GWOC American South, and fell to 5-3 with the loss — a loss that took everything the Trojans had.
“That’s the best game we’ve played all year. It was the most complete game from start to finish,” Rasey said. “Xenia has had competitive scores, losing to Tipp 1-0 and Sidney 3-2. They’d won five in a row, they’d just dropped five on Butler. We knew this was going to be a team that was going to come in and compete, and we knew we had to play our best game if we wanted to win.”
And it all started with Troy’s defense.
Goaltender Arianna Garcia made eight saves to post the shutout, the Trojans’ fourth in a row. The defense made sure those saves weren’t as dangerous as they could have been, too, with Garcia only facing one quality scoring chance, stuffing Xenia’s Alexis Claybaugh. And with Xenia boasting seven of the top 10 goal scorers in the American South Division, that was an all-around accomplishment.
“Garcia only had to make one really good save — and she made it,” Rasey said. “Our defense had to step up against one of the leading goal scorers in the GWOC. We were able to get another shutout with our defense. Bailey Hess did a really nice job on Cheyann McGee, their leading scorer. And then you look at our midfielders and forwards, we did a good job of knocking the ball around and keeping possession. That’s what we talk about when we say a complete game. The end result was a 3-0 win.”
Xenia’s defense was solid, as well, despite playing with a backup goalkeeper due to injury. The defense made up for it, making non-goalie saves on three separate Trojan shots — each of them a quality scoring chance. One of them was a perfectly-executed header on a corner kick, and the final one was a shot by Audrey Brumfield on a rebound after the Buc goalkeeper was caught out of position, seemingly leaving the goal wide open.
But with 8:16 left in the first half, the Trojans drove one home — and on another perfectly-executed play. Molly Miller took a pass 25 yards out from the goal, settled the ball … and left it in place behind her. Ciena Miller jumped on the drop pass and hammered it over the keeper’s head, under the crossbar and in, giving Troy a 1-0 lead — where things would remain at halftime.
The Trojans kept the heat on to start the second half, firing off five shots on goal in the first 10 minutes — all of which were stopped. Claybaugh’s potentially-game-tying chance came with 22 minutes left in the match but was stuffed, and Troy went right back on the offensive but couldn’t find a way to put in an insurance goal despite a number of solid opportunities.
With 11:40 to play, though, Hannah Widener sent an on-the-money pass from midfield to a streaking Kenzie Evans, who split a trio of defenders to receive the pass on a breakaway and cashed in to make it a 2-0 game. And with 2:10 remaining, Olivia Westfall made it a three-goal game, hitting another high-arcing shot over the keeper’s head to seal the win.
“Ciena, that was her eighth goal of the season. That will keep her right near the top in scoring in our division,” Rasey said. “And then that was Kenzie’s fourth goal. And Olivia’s goal was a well-struck ball, as well. When players like that step up, we’re going to be in really good shape. It was good all-around team play tonight.”
Troy will look to ride that momentum into Saturday night’s home game against Northmont before beginning its head-to-head matchups against its American North Division rivals at Greenville on Sept. 22.
“This was our seventh game, our fifth shutout, our fourth in a row. For us, the rest of the season started tonight,” Rasey said. “We’re about to hit the halfway point, and our schedule the rest of the way doesn’t get any easier. This is the kind of performance we’re going to need in those big games.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.