By Josh Brown
TROY — Both Troy Christian soccer teams began the new season slow in their respective first halves Saturday.
Both also picked up steam and put their games away with strong second halves.
Jon Slone scored two second-half goals to complete a hat trick, turning a 2-0 Eagle halftime lead into a 6-0 victory for Troy Christian’s boys soccer team over Lehman Saturday at Eagle Stadium. The Troy Christian girls followed with a game against National Trail, dominating possession but only managing a 1-0 halftime lead — only to blow the game wide open in the second and put away a 7-0 victory to open the season.
* Eagle Boys
Take First Step
After a solid season last year, Troy Christian’s boys soccer team wants to continue building.
Saturday, they got started.
Senior Jon Slone — already the program’s all-time leader in goals scored — posted a hat trick against the Lehman Cavaliers, scoring the first goal of the game and adding two more in the second half to help seal a 6-0 victory on opening day Saturday.
“We’re looking for a big year this season,” Troy Christian boys soccer coach Ryan Zeman said. “The first step is out of the way now. Now it’s on to the second step.”
Troy Christian (1-0), which will face Fairlawn Tuesday in that second step, dominated possession throughout the game, never letting the Cavs (0-1) keep the ball for more than two or three passes the whole match. The Eagles also built momentum early with a number of offensive chances, and with 33:16 left in the first, Slone got the ball in the corner, cut across the field and dribbled it into the center and rifled a near-post shot in to make it a 1-0 game.
After that, though, the Eagles struggled to solve Lehman’s offside trap defense, getting caught offsides double-digit times in the first half alone until a corner kick by Jared Trimbach bounced off the wall of players in front of the goal and right to Colt Tanner, who drilled a shot past everyone and in to make it a 2-0 game with 4:27 left in the half — and that’s where the score stayed at the break.
“Honestly, it was a good gameplan for them,” Zeman said. “They scouted us, knew we were quick up top, and we just weren’t ready for it. But we made some adjustments and were okay after that.”
Once the puzzle of the trap was solved, though, it was all over.
Connor Peters sent a ball through to Slone, who stayed onsides, beat the defense then tapped a shot in over the goalkeeper, who had come out to try to cut off the angle. That made it 3-0 with 20:48 to play, and with 15:49 remaining, Slone again got free on a breakaway, following his own shot by putting the rebound in to make it 4-0 and complete his hat trick.
“It’s good to get those slotted balls like that — and once Jon gets through, he’s a special player,” Zeman said. “You give him chances like that, more often than not he’s going to finish it.”
With 8:56 to play, Trimbach got another assist on a goal by Tripp Schulte, and with 38 seconds left, Trimbach scored a goal of his own to make it a 6-0 game.
Lehman’s best play of the game came in the first half on the defensive end, when John Henry Frantz made a non-goalie save on a slow-rolling shot by Slone on a breakaway that had already beaten the keeper. But Troy Christian’s defense didn’t give the Cavs any ground on offense, as Eagle keeper Jackson Kremer posted the shutout without having to make more than three saves.
“Our defense played solid, for sure,” Zeman said. “Our center backs Seth (Wynne) and Kev (Kevin Smith) are solid and were clicking today. The whole defense was.”
Troy Christian hosts Fairlawn Tuesday, while Lehman travels to Allen East Thursday.
* ‘Just one’ Turns
Into Many for TC
Midway through the first half of Saturday’s season opener, one of the Troy Christian girls soccer team’s players on the bench stated the obvious.
“One of them said ‘we just need one, coach. If we get one, we’ll be okay,’” Troy Christian girls soccer coach Brian Peters said. “Soon after, we got that first one.”
Plenty more followed.
Troy Christian (1-0) put heavy pressure on National Trail throughout the first 20 minutes of the game, firing off shot after shot that either went high or wide. But a goal by Nicole Murphy got the ball rolling and gave the Eagles a 1-0 halftime lead — and they routed the Blazers in the second half, at one time scoring four goals in less than 10 minutes to put away a 7-0 victory.
“It was good. The girls were nervous early,” Peters said. “We’re young, and even the girls that are back didn’t get a whole lot of time up front. I thought we possessed the ball well, and I even thought our shot selection was good. We just had trouble finishing early.”
But with 14:59 to play in the first half, the Eagles put together a solid combination play, building out of the midfield and moving the ball forward with ease. Riley Spoltman passed up to Lexi Salazar, who passed one last time to spring Murphy free — and Murphy didn’t miss her opportunity, giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead at the break.
It didn’t take long for Troy Christian to take charge in the second half.
Gracie Salazar floated a shot from the left side that angled just over Trail’s keeper’s head, hit off the base of the far post and went into to make it a two-goal game 1:01 into the second half. Five minutes later, Spoltman jumped all over a popped-up loose ball in front of the Blazer goal and drove it home to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.
They weren’t done. At 22:04, Spoltman sent a cross to the middle that deflected high off of a defender’s foot — and Lexi Salazar was right there to head it in to make it 4-0. With 16:52 to play, Glaser scored her second of the game, then a corner kick by Hailey Peters was deflected in the center right to Lauren Moritz, who scored from 20 yards out to make it 6-0 with 15:01 left. And with 13:34 remaining, Spoltman added one last goal to make it a 7-0 game.
“We talked more about calming the shots in the box and not just shooting it, like we were in the first half,” Peters said of the halftime adjustments. “Everything was high or wide or high and wide in the first half. But in the second half, we did much better. It was a good changing point for the girls mentally.
“We also had a bunch of different girls scoring for us, which will be key this year. We don’t have that one stud that’s going to get you three or four goals every single night. We’re going to need everyone scoring for us.”
In goal, meanwhile, Cara Salazar made one save to record the shutout as the Eagle defense prevented National Trail (0-1) from having any truly dangerous scoring chances.
Troy Christian travels to Lehman Tuesday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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