By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The Troy boys soccer team had its shot at undefeated division leader Tippecanoe Tuesday night.
And after a sluggish first half, the Trojans even briefly took the lead early in the second.
But the Red Devils ran off three goals in a 15-minute span after that, piling up just enough insurance to hold on for a hard-fought 4-3 victory Tuesday at Troy Memorial Stadium, giving Tippecanoe a bit more breathing room in the Miami Valley League Miami Division standings as the regular season enters its final stretch.
With the win, Tippecanoe improved to 13-0-1 overall and 7-0 in the MVL Miami, giving itself a 1.5-game lead over Troy with two league games remaining. And after cruising through much of the season, the Devils have recently shown, in a 2-2 tie against Alter and a 2-1 win over Northmont — and bouncing back from a 2-1 deficit in the second half against the Trojans on Tuesday — that they can win the close ones, too.
“The last couple games, that’s happened to us. We’ve gone down, and we’ve came back,” Tippecanoe coach Scott Downing said. “So it’s good to see that they don’t just give up and fall over. We picked up the intensity, the execution was a little better. Sometimes we were a little unlucky, but sometimes it was our own fault that we didn’t finish the job.”
The Trojans, meanwhile, fell to 8-3-2 overall and 5-1-1 in the MVL Miami, their first loss since the first week of the season. Since the Devils became a division rival, the Trojans have struggled against them, dropping their last three straight against Tippecanoe — although in Tuesday’s defeat, Troy showed that it had some fight in it, too.
“We showed some resilience tonight,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said. “We came out in that second half and worked hard and played for each other.”
Tippecanoe controlled the action for the most part in the first half, surviving one scare with a non-goalie save in the first eight minutes of the game that kept things scoreless. And with 28:53 remaining in the first half, a long pass from Evan Stonerock sprung Ben Sauls on a breakaway, and Sauls ripped in a left-footed shot cutting across the middle of the field to give the Devils a 1-0 lead.
That was where the score remained at the break, though, as the Devils simply couldn’t convert on any of its other chances in the first half.
“It was a frustrating night,” Downing said. “The opportunities were there. Get those in, you can finish off the game. The longer you allow a team to stay in it, they’re just going to build momentum. I knew Troy’s kids were going to be pumped up to play. It’s a rivalry, and every year it’s a pretty close game. You can expect that between the two of us.”
And in the second half, Troy took that momentum and ran with it.
Elijah Williams sent a pass up the left side to Gavin Marshall, who hammered home the game-tying goal with 34:23 remaining in the match. Not even two minutes later, the Trojans cashed in a corner kick to take the lead, with Marshall sending the ball into the box and Sam Kazmaier heading it in to give Troy a 2-1 lead with 32:28 on the clock.
That simply seemed to wake the Devils up, though.
Matt Hinkle hit a corner kick into the box that Troy’s keeper tapped away but couldn’t control, and it landed right in front of Sauls, who knocked it in to tie the score again with 29:57 remaining in the game. And with 24:53 to go, Sauls centered the ball from the left side to Blake Heeley, who redirected it in for the go-ahead goal, putting the Devils back on top 3-2.
“The kids played well. They worked hard,” Phillips said. “Tippecanoe is a good squad, a big squad, a physical squad. They play you hard. They force you into mistakes, and then they capitalize on those mistakes.”
And with roughly 16 minutes to play, Tippecanoe’s A.J. DeCamp hit a shot off the bottom of the crossbar that stayed in the field of play, but the Devils were awarded a penalty kick as the Trojans tried to clear the ball, and Hinkle cashed in the kick to give the Devils an all-important insurance goal with 15:51 to go.
Troy answered with one last goal with 14:44 to play after a throw-in by Williams as Jon Hipolito blasted a shot off the left post and in to cut the deficit to 4-3, but Red Devil defense didn’t give up any more dangerous scoring chances and Tippecanoe held on for the win.
“This was a good win for us,” Downing said. “Still undefeated, and this does a lot for us. We’ve still got two league games to play, but this gives us a little room between Troy and Butler now.”
Tippecanoe is now off until Oct. 8 when it hosts Sidney, then it finishes the regular season at Butler on Oct. 10. Troy hosts Wayne Thursday in a final non-league matchup before hosting Stebbins on Senior Night Oct. 8 and traveling to Piqua on Oct. 10.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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