By Josh Brown
PIQUA — Troy was understandably rusty when it came to scoring goals. After all, it hadn’t posted one during its four-game losing streak.
Once they got going, with a little help, the Trojans shook that rust right off.
The Troy girls soccer team — which had been shut out for the past four games — finished the regular season with its second-best offensive performance of the year, putting away the rival Piqua Indians with a trio of solid second-half goals and winning 5-1 at Piqua Wednesday night to finish the season 8-6-2, 8-2 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division.
“We had to get back on the winning track heading into the tournament,” Troy coach Michael Rasey said. “We’ve had a tough stretch of games against some of the top teams, and we’ve had a hard time finding the back of the net. We really worked in practice the last couple of days on quicker transitions, getting forward, getting players forward — and we saw some of those efforts pay off tonight.”
That tough stretch began with a 2-0 loss at Beavercreek, the No. 2 seed in the upcoming sectional, followed by a 1-0 loss to GWOC American North Division champion Tippecanoe. The skid ended with losses to a pair of potential tournament opponents for fourth-seeded Troy, No. 3 Centerville and No. 6 Miamisburg.
Wednesday night, Troy played its game — playing tough defense until it could find an opening, then turning that into offense quickly the other way.
“That’s the way we’re going to have to play if we’re going to be successful, especially headed into the tournament,” Rasey said. “Other teams are going to give us their best shot. The teams that we’re going to play are ones that held us scoreless before, so we know that in order to advance in the tournament, we’re going to have to play. We’re always going to play good defense, but we’ve got to improve the offensive side of the ball.”
Getting the first goal proved tough, though — but the Trojans got an unintentional helping hand from the opposition.
Kenzie Evans sent the ball forward to Olivia Westfall, who crossed it in front of the Piqua goal from the right side. It deflected off of the back of a Piqua defender’s legs, though, surprising both her and the goalkeeper as it bounced into the goal to give Troy a 1-0 lead with 25:52 left in the first half.
The scoring block broken, Troy was fine on its own after that. With 10:53 to go in the first half, Evans got a score of her own with an assist from Sydney Short, and the Trojans led 2-0 at the break.
That insurance goal proved important, too, as Piqua cut the deficit in half early in the second half. Madison Curtner hit a 20-yard free kick just over the outstretched arms of Troy’s keeper and in, cutting the lead to 2-1 with 32:46 to go — and five minutes later, the Indians nearly scored the game-tying goal, too. Curtner got free on a breakaway and fired off a shot as Troy’s Arianna Garcia came out of the goal to challenge the play — and Garcia made the save to preserve the lead.
“We let them hang around a little bit too long,” Rasey said. “It is an emotional night. It is Piqua-Troy, and it’s obviously their Senior Night, so they’re going to have a lot of emotion and play hard and give us their best shot. We knew coming in that we were going to have to step up our game.”
In the final 30 minutes, the Trojans did just that.
Evans again was involved in creating Troy’s third goal, bringing the ball up on a two-on-one break. She passed to Hannah Widener, who hit a shot over the keeper and inside the far post to give the Trojans a 3-1 lead with 25:55 to play.
The score remained there until late in the game. With 10:19 to go, Bailey Hess sent a pass to Ciena Miller, who fired a shot so hard that it slipped right through the Piqua keeper’s hands, over her head and trickled across the line to make it a 4-1 game. And less than one minute later, with 9:38 to play, a handball in the Piqua box gave Troy a shot at a penalty kick, and Hess cashed it in to make the score 5-1 and put the game away for good.
Now Troy will try to carry that momentum into the tournament and keep building on it. The Trojans host No. 13 Edgewood Tuesday in the opening round.
“The way we are competitive against the best teams, coaches recognized in giving us the fourth seed in the tournament. That respect factor is one that has put us in a position where maybe we can make a run in the tournament,” Rasey said. “Our schedule helps build us and prepare us for the tournament. Our defense and goalkeeping is going to keep us in every game. Now it’s just a matter of will we generate enough offense to get us the ‘W.’”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.