By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy girls soccer coach Michael Rasey expected something a bit tougher than the usual No. 4 against No. 13 seed matchup.
His Trojans were ready for it, though.
Kenzie Evans and Molly Miller both finished with quality goals on plays set up by Olivia Westfall, and goalkeeper Arianna Garcia and the Troy defense did the rest as the fourth-seeded Trojans (9-6-2) shut down No. 13 Edgewood for a 2-0 victory in the opening round of the Division I sectional tournament Tuesday night at Troy Memorial Stadium.
“Edgewood is not a bad team. They’re definitely better than their seeding,” Rasey said. “I think they just don’t get the respect from Dayton coaches because nobody sees them play throughout the year. I mean, they’ve got some talented players.
“It wasn’t going to be a typical four-13 matchup. I knew we were going to have to come with our best game if we were going to advance.”
But facing tougher competition early in the tournament rather than posting a blowout can help the Trojans moving forward — especially with a familiar rival awaiting in the second round. Saturday night, Troy will face No. 10 Butler, which upset No. 6 Miamisburg 3-2 on a goal in the final minute on Tuesday night. The Trojans defeated the Aviators 4-1 during the regular season.
“We knew that we were going to have a tough road no matter how we were going to make it through the tournament,” Rasey said. “While a 2-0 game doesn’t help your nerves a whole lot, it’s definitely a situation where we continue to click while playing against good teams — and that should bode well the deeper we make it in the tournament.”
And, as is Troy’s normal method of operation, the defense led the way.
The Trojans controlled the midfield, and when the Cougars were able to get into Troy’s defensive end, the Trojan backs gave them little room to work. Senior keeper Garcia cut off many shots before they even could happen and only made four saves to post the shutout, with Edgewood only truly having one dangerous scoring opportunity.
With Troy already leading 2-0 with 15 minutes to play, Edgewood’s Emma Hiatt got free on a breakaway up the right side. She angled toward the center of the field and hit a 15-yard shot, but Garcia dove to her right to stuff it and preserve the shutout.
“As I’ve said many times before, I’ll take our goalkeepers next to anybody’s,” Rasey said. “If a goalkeeper only has to make a couple of saves in a game, then they’re doing their job. This is Arianna’s senior year. I know she wants to keep on playing, and it’s going to take something special to get by her in the tournament.”
Troy’s offense, meanwhile, threatened early on as Ciena Miller rifled a shot off the crossbar in the game’s opening minute. A couple of shot went wide over the next few minutes and a cross by Miller found no one on the back end of it, but the Trojans were clearly controlling play.
And with 29:15 remaining in the first half, the Trojans officially took control. Westfall passed the ball to Evans up the right side, and Troy was on a two-on-one rush. Evans kept it herself, made a slick move to beat the defender and create some space to strike an on-the-money shot from 20 yards out to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead — a lead that they would still be protecting at halftime.
“I feel confident each and every game with our defensive effort and our goalkeeping,” Rasey said. “We’ve worked a ton in practice on quicker play moving forward, transition play. And Kenzie’s goal was exactly what Kenzie is capable of doing when she can be aggressive going at the goal.”
Play evened out a bit in the second half, but with 19:05 remaining in the game, Westfall and Molly Miller — Troy’s backup goalkeeper — worked a give-and-go, with Miller finishing the play with a gorgeous shot under the diving Cougar keeper to give the Trojans all the insurance they would need.
“You look at Molly’s goal in the second half, coming from a part-time keeper, part-time field player, that was a fantastic finish from her,” Rasey said. “Obviously, it gave us some breathing room. I felt pretty confident that, once we got two, that we would be able to hold it.”
After Garcia stuffed Edgewood’s best chance of the game minutes later, the Trojans held on from there. One last corner kick attempt by the Cougars at the buzzer was headed wide, and Troy advanced to the sectional’s semifinal round.
The Trojans will host Butler at 7 p.m. Saturday, with a trip to the sectional title game on the line.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.