By Josh Brown
TROY — The Troy boys soccer team showed how far it’s progressed since the second week of the season.
Now the Trojans will get the chance to show how far they’ve come since last year.
Of the 14 victories that fourth-seeded Troy had collected entering Monday’s Division I sectional tournament opener, only three came by one goal — and 16th-seeded Fairborn was one of those wins. But the Trojans were focused, determined and maintained control for the entire 80 minutes in a 4-0 victory at Troy Memorial Stadium, advancing to Thursday’s semifinal round to face another familiar opponent.
Troy (15-0-2) — which edged Fairborn 1-0 back on Aug. 30, early in its first-ever undefeated season — will host fifth-seeded Fairmont Thursday. The Trojans were ousted by the Firebirds in last year’s sectional tournament in a 4-1 loss on a surreal, rainy night at Fairmont.
So what was the difference Tuesday against the Skyhawks (5-9-3)?
“Possession,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said. “Ball possession. Being able to hold the ball and find a white shire made it easier for us tonight. Because they gave us the room to do that. They didn’t pressure the ball, and they gave us the room to knock the ball around.”
Early on, though, there was plenty of knocking but not enough shooting.
Despite controlling possession for the first 20 minutes of the game, Troy only got three shots off during that time. A shot by Henry Shaneyfelt went high five minutes into the game, then a cross by Grant Holland found no one on the other end at the 10-minute mark. Two minutes later, Holland set up Brandon Lewis for the Trojans’ best shot early on, but the keeper deflected the ball out of bounds, and the resulting corner kick was cleared. And with 22:14 left in the first half, Lewis — who scored the only goal in the first meeting between the teams — hit a shot that sailed just wide of the far post, and the score remained 0-0.
“We created opportunities, but we never took the shot,” Phillips said. “We didn’t shoot the ball. When you create the opportunity, you have to shoot the ball.”
Fairborn got the best scoring opportunity early on, as with 11:30 left in the first half Diego Munoz got the ball in space just outside the box and rifled a shot — but Troy keeper Troy Breisch dove to his right to make the save and deflect the ball out of bounds, and the Trojan defense easily cleared the resulting corner kick.
With 7:14 left in the half, though, Troy finally got on the board.
A Trojan shot on goal trickled away from the Fairborn keeper, and Bailey Webb, seeing that the keeper was going to recover in time, dished it to a wide-open Shaneyfelt, who finished the play to put the Trojans up 1-0.
With 2:56 remaining in the half, the Trojans posted an insurance goal as Webb set up Kasheen Perdue to finish off a two-on-one break, making the score 2-0 at the half.
“Fairborn just didn’t have that go-to player again. They knocked the ball around, but they didn’t have that. It’ll be a little different Thursday,” Phillips said. “We made changes in the second half. We reminded the guys that we needed to shoot the ball.”
Early in the second half, Troy put the game away.
Shaneyfelt had a shot in front blocked by a defender, but the ball came right back to him. So he instead passed over to an open Lewis, who scored to make it a three-goal game. And with 9:38 to go, Collin Hubbell sent a long, high pass into the Fairborn zone from midfield, and Holland beat two defenders and the Skyhawk keeper to the ball, then he was able to turn while on a full-speed run and hit a shot on target, putting it in the open goal to make it 4-0 and ice it.
Now the Trojans will host Fairmont (9-6-1) Thursday with a chance at payback — and a trip to the sectional championship on the line.
“Fairmont has a lot of quality,” Phillips said. “We’ll have to be able to get rid of the ball early. We cannot hold onto the ball, because they close down quickly. Their spine of the team is strong. Their midfield, and also their back four, because they have someone that sits in front of their back four that’s pretty tough. It’s going to be hard to break them down.
“It’s going to be tough for us on Thursday. But we have to have that belief in each other. That’s the main thing. We have to come out with that belief and ready to play.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.