By Josh Brown
KETTERING — Troy was ready for Fairmont Saturday night.
It just wasn’t ready for the torrential downpour the game was played in.
The first 20 minutes of the game were played in a nonstop driving rain, and the field at Fairmont High School was immediately in shambles, with players for both teams unable to keep their footing or predict whether the ball would skip quickly off the wet grass or come to a dead stop in a giant puddle. And while the conditions wrecked the possession style that Troy has always played, they played right into the Firebirds hands — and fourth-seeded Fairmont took advantage, defeated the sixth-seeded Trojans 4-1 in the Division I sectional semifinal.
“It changed everything,” Troy boys soccer coach Richard Phillips said. “We prepared for better conditions. That’s what we prepared in all week long. Then this showed up and changed everything we planned.
“We practiced our possession game all week long, but the conditions changed. We just couldn’t play our game tonight.”
By the time the game kicked off, there were already visible pools of standing water all over the field — and the rain didn’t slow, either. Neither team held onto the ball for long as both tried to adjust to the conditions.
For Troy, though, that adjustment was much harder. The short, concise passes that the Trojans typically used became a gamble as the ball did random things every time it touched the ground. And Fairmont cashed in with 32:45 left in the first half as Riley VanderKaay threw the ball into the box and it stopped dead the instant it landed. Troy’s defenders struggled to clear the ball from in front of their own goal, and Nathan Spangler finally was able to get to the ball and poke it in to give the Firebirds a 1-0 lead.
Fairmont’s first three goals all came on similar plays.
“Once you put the ball in the air, if you don’t get behind it, it’s difficult to control,” Phillips said. “And once it’s in your 18, it’s difficult to clear it because the ball just dies because the conditions.”
Troy answered that first goal, though — with some help from the conditions. Mack Sherman hit a long arcing shot from 40 yards out, and the ball slipped out of the Fairmont keeper’s control. Collin Hubbell was there to collect the rebound and score to tie the game with 30 minutes left in the half.
But with 14:40 until the break, the Troy defense again couldn’t get a ball in the box clear. Two Fairmont players whiffed on shots before Eric Bungingo finally put solid contact on the ball and scored to make it 2-1 heading into the half. And with 31:23 left in the game, the Firebirds again scored on a VanderKaay throw-in into the box, this time with Tanner Kunst driving the ball home before the defense could get to it, giving Fairmont a two-goal lead.
The Trojans, who scored on their only real chance of the first half, had more chances in the final 20 minutes of the game, but they all ended in near misses. Grant Holland hit a left-footed shot from 25 yards out that the keeper was able to deflect out, and the Firebirds cleared the resulting corner kick. Tristan West then hit a sliding shot that just rolled to the left of the goal with 15 minutes to play.
VanderKaay sealed the win, hitting a solid shot into the upper 90 to make it 4-1 with 11:14 to play, and shots by J.T. Yenney and Hubbell were either saved or went wide in the final five minutes.
The Trojans — who defeated the Firebirds 3-1 in the season opener on the same field — finished the season 12-5, while Fairmont will face Springboro in Tuesday’s sectional title game at Centerville.
“We had success throughout the year,” Phillips said. “When we started preparing for the game, the kids knew we’d won against them in the first match of the year, but teams change over time. When you go into the tournament, you’ve got to put all that aside. Both teams had to play in the same conditions tonight, but our game was just not suited to them.
“Coming into the game, we were both evenly matched. And that’s the disappointing part about tonight — the fact that we couldn’t play our game.”
Bethel 2, Lehman 0
BRANDT — The fourth-seeded Bethel Bees fought through the rain and the wind Saturday night in the Division III sectional semifinal, outlasting No. 17 Lehman 2-0 to advance to the sectional title game.
“I thought this was a well-played soccer match tonight, especially considering the weather conditions,” Bethel coach Bob Hamlin said. “We were able to move the ball pretty well but just could not get that last pass to put us in a dangerous position.”
In the middle of the first half, though, Joe Miller headed in a corner kick by Korry Hamlin to put that Bees up 1-0, and that’s the way things remained until halftime. And at the midway point of the second half, Evan Hawthorn converted a penalty kick to seal the win.
“I was pleased with our intensity tonight, and hopefully we can continue this next week,” Hamlin said.
Bethel will face Newton for the sectional title Tuesday at Fairmont.
Newton 5, Botkins 2
PLEASANT HILL — Seventh-seeded Newton — which scored 15 goals in a game in the final week of the regular season — kept up its torrid offensive pace Saturday, defeating No. 11 Botkins 5-2 in the second round of the Division III sectional tournament.
Newton will take on No. 4 Bethel Tuesday at Fairmont for the sectional championship.
ME 3, Brookville 0
CASSTOWN — Sixth-seeded Miami East scored a pair of goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half, taking control against No. 13 Brookville and not letting go in a 3-0 victory in the second round of the Division III sectional tournament.
“Things were looking a little uneasy for the first 30 minutes as players were trying to get a feel for the sloppiness of the field with all the rain we were getting,” Miami East coach Adam Bell said. “Luckily, they all adjusted well in terms of what they could get away with and when they needed to play a little on the safer side.”
With 10:55 left in the first half, Devyn Carson finished off a cross by Connor Wilson to give the Vikings the lead, then with 8:26 left in the half Dalton Taynor scored on a throw-in by Kaleb Elifritz to make it 2-0 at the break. And less than three minutes into the second half, Carson scored his second goal of the game to seal it.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way these guys have banded together this season,” Bell said. “It’s exciting to see us playing our best soccer all season right now. I keep reminding them that this is the time of year when someone’s season ends every time there’s a game, and they seem to have responded well.”
Miami East faces Yellow Springs for the sectional title Tuesday at Eaton.
Greeneview 6, M-U 0
JAMESTOWN — The No. 20 Milton-Union Bulldogs’ season came to an end Saturday night with a 6-0 loss at top-seeded Greeneview in the second round of the Division III sectional tournament.
ME 3, Brookville 0
BROOKVILLE — The second-seeded Miami Eastvolleyball team won its fifth straight sectional title Saturday afternoon, sweeping No. 15 Brookville 25-21, 25-11, 25-10 in the Division III sectional final at Brookville High School.
Jonni Parker had 19 kills, 14 assists, five digs and three aces and Kyndall Hellyer had 10 kills and eight digs to lead the way, while Jillian Wesco added six digs and five aces.
Miami East will take on Badin in the district final Oct. 31 at Tippecanoe High School.
Lehman 3, SCC 1
TIPP CITY — The No. 3 Lehman Cavaliers bounced back after dropping the first set and coasted to a Division IV sectional championship Saturday against Springfield Catholic Central, winning 19-25, 25-10, 25-16, 25-15 at Tippecanoe High School.
Lehman will face MVCA Oct. 31 at Troy in the district title game.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.