By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Elijah Williams may have been nervous.
But he also knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t miss.
“It’s a lot different than practice, that’s for sure,” the Troy senior said of what he thought as he lined up for a potential game-tying penalty kick. “I just felt like, if I missed it, it would really (stink) later on.”
Williams made good on the chance, though, driving in the penalty kick to tie the score midway through the second half, and then two minutes later he sent a throw-in into the box that Sam Kazmaier redirected in for the game-winning goal as the Troy boys soccer team battled back from down one at halftime to claim a critical 2-1 victory over Miami Valley League Miami Division rival Butler Tuesday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
With the win, Troy improved to 6-2-1 overall and 4-0-1 in the MVL Miami. And though the Aviators (4-5-1, 2-2-1 MVL Miami) turned up the pressure late in an effort to tie the score, the Trojans used some lessons learned from a tie against Xenia earlier this season to fight Butler off for the win.
“The mistakes that we made against Xenia — not using the whole field, keeping the ball in the middle of the field — we tried using the length of the field tonight so they had to go 100 yards,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said. “Instead of using just the middle of the field, we forced them to use the whole field, and that helped us a little bit.”
And while the action was back and forth throughout the first half, with both teams having plenty of chances, only Butler was able to cash in as Grady Ingersoll drove in a loose ball on a corner kick after Troy’s defense failed to clear it with 4:07 left until halftime, putting the Aviators up 1-0 at the break.
The second half, though, was practically all Troy.
“We realized that it’s a league match, and we also realized that nobody is going to work hard for us — we have to work hard for it,” Phillips said. “And they did. They worked hard in that second half and got the result they wanted.”
The Trojans still couldn’t find the back of the net, though, until Williams sent a cross to Sam Kazmaier on the far side of the field, and Kazmaier was taken down from behind in the box to set up a penalty kick with 27:37 left in the game. Williams lined up for the shot and fired it right, and though Butler’s keeper guessed correctly, the shot rocketed past him and into the net to tie the score at 1-1.
“It doesn’t really matter where you hit it, as long as you hit it hard,” Williams said. “As long as you don’t hit it down the middle, even if they guess right, it’s still going to go in as long as you get some direction on it.”
It didn’t stay tied long, either.
Troy immediately put pressure on Butler’s defense again, and with 25:06 left in the game, Williams fired a long throw-in right in front of the Butler goal, where Kazmaier was able to get a touch on it and redirect it past the Butler defense to give the Trojans a 2-1 lead.
“Sam was just in the right place, so it was good,” Williams said.
Butler had a number of chances in the final 10 minutes, though, including a near breakaway with 9:15 to play. A Troy defender committed a foul just before the Butler player got into the box, and the resulting direct kick was blocked by the wall of defenders in front.
And with 1:15 left, Troy’s goalie made a diving deflection to prevent the tying goal, and the Aviators set up for a corner kick. This time, though, Troy’s defense was able to clear the ball and send it all the way down to Butler’s defensive end, and the clock wound down.
“The foul that we had, that’s a good foul,” Phillips said. “That’s one of those that you take. It’s outside the box, he got a yellow for it, but the guy was on a breakaway. The kids worked hard to get this one.”
“No matter what kind of squad Butler has — they can be bad and we can be bad, or they can be really good and we can be good — every single time, we know they’re going to come after us,” Williams said. “Last year, we beat them 1-0, and we tied them the year before that. It’s a league game, so it’s a rivalry.”
And though three-time defending division champion Tippecanoe remains in the lead with a 5-0 record, Phillips knows that watching the standings doesn’t help nearly as much as worrying about the next opponent.
“They all played together,” Phillips said. “They wanted it, and they worked hard to get it. And now we have to look at the next one. The next one is what matters.”
Now Troy goes on the road for a pair of games, beginning with a non-league matchup at Bellefontaine at Saturday.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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