By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy Christian’s defense — particularly freshman goalkeeper Cara Salazar — kept the Eagles competitive against state-ranked Cincinnati Country Day.
Missing a key component, though, the young offense couldn’t find ways to get the job done.
Cincinnati Country Day — ranked No. 6 in the state in the latest Division III poll — was finally able to sneak one into the goal right before halftime and used that momentum to tack on two more early in the second half, and Troy Christian (6-6-1) was only able to get a couple of scattered chances in a 3-0 loss to the Indians Saturday at Eagle Stadium.
Troy Christian was playing without senior Meredith Haddad, who has been out for the past couple weeks with an injury. And after the graduation of leading career scorer Lauren Peters, the Eagles have been trying to find ways to put the ball in the net all season.
“We do great in the midfield — we just struggle in the final third,” Troy Christian coach Brian Peters said. “I think we relied on players that have left for too long while they were here. We’ll get the ball into the final third, and everyone just waits for things to happen instead of making them happen themselves.”
But Peters also knows what it was like before those players took over, too.
“I remember how it was four years ago,” he said. “Right now, it’s all about getting those future key players to recognize those good scoring opportunities and then teaching them to convert them.”
Early on, Troy Christian had a couple of those chances.
A mere 2:30 into the game, freshman Riley Spoltman sent a perfect corner kick into the box — but no one, Eagle or Indian, could get to the back end of it. The ball rolled to the other side of the field before Country Day cleared it.
The Eagles came right back shortly after, though, as freshman Kenley Blake stole the ball from an Indian defender and made a run at the goal. The defender was able to recover, though, and prevent Blake from getting a quality shot.
From there, Country Day took charge, putting heavy pressure on the Troy Christian goal. The Indians had double-digit corner kick attempts in the first half, but each time Salazar and the Eagle defense found a way to turn them aside.
“Cara had well over 20 saves today, and at least 10 goal-saving ones on good shots on frame,” Peters said. “We graduated Karli (Riviello) last year, and she was a great goaltender. But Cara is phenomenal, too. She played great today.
“Our whole defense plays great. Lauren Moritz stepped into the role once Meredith got hurt — Meredith’s been out for five or six games now — and she’s really played well. We also moved Alyssa (Donald) to stopper, and she’s come up big. Again, we play really well up through the midfield — it’s the final third we struggle in.”
But with 1:43 left in the half, Country Day was finally able to get on the board as Olivia Brown snuck it into the net, putting Troy Christian down 1-0 at the break.
The Indians held onto the momentum from that score once the second half began, consistently keeping the defense under heavy pressure. And with 34:07 to go, Lauren Buczek received a pass from Ayana Kemp in the center of the field, made one move and used her speed to get past a defender and beat the keeper one-on-one, tapping it in to make it a two-goal game.
And exactly one minute later at the 33:07 mark, Buczek intercepted a punt by the goalie at midfield, quickly brought the ball up the sideline and centered it to Brown, who beat a defender and the keeper on the dribble for another tap-in goal to make it 3-0 Cincinnati Country Day.
“We took St. Ursula to the half 0-0 earlier this year, too. Today, we just couldn’t get there,” Peters said, referencing a 3-0 loss to St. Ursula back on Aug. 29. “Our schedule is really tough. We play Country Day, St. Ursula, Lehman, Miami East. It challenges us, and we’ve been struggling lately to finish.”
The Eagles had two more chances in the final 10 minutes, with sophomore Nicole Murphy ripping a solid shot on goal that Indian keeper Olivia Robinson made a tough save on with eight minutes to go. Spoltman fired off a 20-yard shot that went just high with 1:00 left, and Country Day ran out the clock from there.
Troy Christian travels to Franklin Monroe Tuesday before finishing the regular season at home against Bethel Thursday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.