By Josh Brown
TROY — The Troy girls soccer team could have allowed last week’s disappointing crossover loss to Xenia to dash its hopes in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American Division title race.
Instead, the Trojans used it as a rallying point heading into Tuesday’s matchup against rival Sidney.
Troy goalkeeper Molly Miller and the Trojan defense shut out one of the area’s most potent offenses — including Miller stuffing the GWOC’s leading goal scorer, Elaine Wisenmayer, multiple times — and freshman Julianna Williams found a way to post the game’s only goal in a hard-fought and ultimately critical 1-0 Trojan victory over the Yellow Jackets Tuesday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
“I think it was very important,” Miller said. “We obviously needed this one for the GWOC — but also for our own mental stability. Getting a win back under our belts heading into this next week of games, it was much needed.”
With the win, the Trojans improved to 6-3 overall and moved into sole possession of second place at 6-1 in the GWOC American North. Sidney, meanwhile, fell to 6-2-2 and 4-1-1 in the division. The Jackets, who finished second place in the American North ahead of third-place Troy last season, handed defending division champion Tippecanoe its first blemish in two seasons as a member of the GWOC on Saturday with a 2-2 tie. The Red Devils currently lead the division at 6-0-1, 8-0-1 overall.
Needless to say, it was something of a big win for Troy.
“A big one is an understatement, to be honest,” Troy girls soccer coach Michael Rasey said. “Considering our result against Xenia last week, we knew this was a game that we had to win to be in contention for the division title. And we knew we had a tall task ahead of us, because Sidney is one of the better teams in Dayton. I’m proud of the way the girls pulled together and continued to fight.”
“I think this was probably our best win so far,” Williams said. “And this will make us feel a lot better against Tipp, too.”
And with a pair of senior keepers, Troy’s Miller and Sidney’s Carly Dean, facing off, both offenses were destined to have a tough night.
Miller made 10 saves on the night — including stopping a number of quality shots. Halfway through the first half, Miller was forced to make a diving save on a redirect by Emma Dahlinghaus in front. And a few minutes later, Sidney’s Kayli Smith had a point-blank shot in front, but again Miller was able to dive and keep the game scoreless.
“Molly proved again why she’s one of the best keepers in the Dayton area,” Rasey said. “You ask a goalkeeper to make one or two saves a game to keep you in it. She made four or five that were legitimate game-saving plays tonight. But she’s up to the task. She gives our team a lot of confidence knowing that she’s back there.”
“I just try to do the best that I can to have my team’s back,” Miller said. “Especially in a game like this. They’re out there working hard. I feel like we had the pedal to the floor the whole time, so I just had to keep it up and have their back, put everything out there on the line — because we really needed this win.”
Troy had a number of chances in the first half, too. Within the first 10 minutes, Williams hit a shot that hit the underside of the crossbar but rebounded back onto the field of play. And with 22 minutes left in the half, Troy’s leading scorer Kenzie Evans took a direct kick from 20 yards out, hitting it just high — one of four shots she hit in the half that either missed or were saved.
And with less than a minute to go in the half, Sidney had a breakaway chance, but Miller — who was injured making an identical play against Trotwood earlier this season, getting kicked in the face and ending up with a broken nose — showed no fear, sliding and covering the ball up before a shot could be taken, keeping the score tied 0-0 at the half.
“She’s one of the toughest you’ll come across. She won’t back down from anything,” Rasey said.
With the Jackets controlling play early in the second half, Miller was tested again by Sidney’s best chance of the night. With 29:30 left in the game, Wisenmayer got the ball in space in front and hammered a 15-yard shot — but Miller made a fully-extended dive to swat the ball away, and a teammate got to the rebound and cleared it before the Jackets could get another chance.
And with 18:49 left in the game, the Trojans finally dented the scoreboard.
Olivia Westfall carried the ball up the field and fought through a pair of Sidney defenders to get a pass forward to Williams, who herself had to muscle through two more defenders just to get to the ball. She made it, though, and was able to send a shot past the Sidney keeper and give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
“I’m usually just thinking that I have to score it,” Williams said. “I tell myself ‘I have to score this. I have to score this’ before I shoot. It felt amazing.”
“I tell them before every game that our attack has to be relentless,” Rasey said. “And that goal proves the determination we had going forward. A goal doesn’t have to be pretty to count. Olivia and Julianna worked together, and they went after it — and to beat a keeper of that caliber, too. She (Dean) is very good. We knew it would take a special offensive effort to get the job done tonight.”
And Miller made that goal stand up, too. Two minutes later, Wisenmayer hit a solid header off of a cross and put it right on the mark, but Miller was there to snare the shot. Troy fended off a series of corner kicks in the final 10 minutes of the game, too, and with 2:26 to go Miller intercepted a cross in front that proved to be the Jackets’ last chance of the night.
“I told them at halftime ‘all we need is one’ — and they proved me right,” Rasey said.
Troy now has a non-league matchup against Miamisburg on Monday before traveling to Butler on Sept. 27 for its next division matchup.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.