By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
TROY — It was the kind of heat that most people wouldn’t want to walk outside in, let alone play a soccer match in.
At 89 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the match and with a thick blanket of humidity to accompany the heat is nowhere near ideal conditions. Yet, the Troy boys soccer team trained all summer in similar heat, and its fitness paid off on Tuesday as the Trojans dominated in a 6-1 Greater Western Ohio Conference American League crossover win over Fairmont at Troy Memorial Stadium.
“Our preparation in the offseason is what takes care of that,” said Troy head coach Richard Phillips when asked about playing through the heat. “When we prepare in June and July, especially in July and coming into August, the hottest months of the year, we prepare for that kind of weather.”
Troy sophomore Gavin Marshall was the only player to record multiple goals in the offensive explosion, becoming the first Trojan with a multi-goal match this season.
Marshall, when asked if he considers the victory to be the best match of his young career, quickly agreed that is was, but not without accrediting his teammates.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” he said. “We played really well. I got those two goals, but it wouldn’t be without those two assists.”
Only a few seconds after junior Anthony Gonzalez scored on a breakaway goal to give Troy a 3-0 lead, the Trojans were again threatening the Fairborn goalkeeper. A Skyhawk defender was dribbling when Tyler Owens executed a steal and delivered a beautiful pass to Marshall, who knocked it in with ease to complete a play that was nothing short of poetry.
Sixty seconds later, another beautiful assist from junior Nathan Kleptz led to Marshall’s second goal, and his team’s third in a span of about a minute and a half. Although Marshall had to knock both goals in, he said that his scores would not have happened without great passing from his teammates.
“Passing is the lifeblood of the game,” said Phillips. “If you can’t pass, you can’t play. It’s the life of the game, and we have to be able to pass regardless of what team we’re playing. You do that in training, and you try to bring it out here in a match situation.”
Despite the parade of scoring at the end of the first half, it took the Trojans 13 minutes to break the scoreless tie to begin the match. However, during this time, they were aggressively attacking the goal and just couldn’t seem to break through.
With 33 minutes left to play in the first half, the Troy offense was in dangerous territory for Fairborn, as the Trojans were creating opportunities but just couldn’t seem to score. Finally, with 27 minutes left in the half, sophomore Jon Hipolito recovered his own deflected shot, and sent it into the net to take a 1-0 lead.
A couple of minutes later, senior Alex Bridge found some open space in the middle of the field and took advantage of it with a powerful strike out of the keeper’s reach for his second goal of the year.
With 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Fairborn was threatening for one of the few times on the night. Their leading scorer, senior Joe Nickel — who had the second-most goals in the GWOC coming into the match — was sprinting towards the Troy goal when Trojan defensive specialist Reese Sherman executed a perfect tackle of the ball from behind, causing Nickel to lose possession and fall. In frustration, Nickel asked the official for a penalty call but did not receive one, as it was deemed nothing more than a spectacular stop by Sherman.
The Trojans had a commanding 5-0 lead at the half, and out of class, decided to play more conservatively.
“Once we had five goals in that first half, we just shut it down. We just shut it down and tried to keep possession in the second half,” said Phillips. “We knew we didn’t have to push them, and we decided to work on our passing game.”
The sixth and final Trojan goal of the night came off the foot of senior captain Bailey Webb, who was tripped and fouled near the goal and capitalized on his penalty kick with 37 minutes left to play in the match.
A similar situation occurred with 22 minutes remaining, when Nickel attempted a penalty kick of his own. Instead of waiting for both teams to become set to take his kick, he booted it right away before Troy goalkeeper Zach Terrill was ready, and Fairborn had finally scored. Phillips said the move was “clever,” and it was smart for Nickel to play the kick that way.
It was Terrill’s lone blemish on the night. A first-year senior on the team, he is not the typical keeper, but Phillips decided to give him the start after his team faced some injuries and he wanted Terrill to gain some varsity experience.
The penalty kick was the first goal the Skyhawks had scored against Troy since their first of two games against the Trojans in 2013, ending a span of 19 straight goals for Troy.
Troy has not been beaten by Fairborn since 2009 and has a 9-0-1 record against the Skyhawks during that stretch. Although he says they were not challenged during the match, Phillips was adamant that he and his team prepared the same way they would with any team beforehand.
With the win, the Trojans’ record in GWOC American North Division play moves to 1-0, and their overall record is 2-1. The Skyhawks fall to 0-2 in the GWOC American South and 1-2 overall.
Moving forward, Troy will travel to play Stebbins on Thursday, a team they defeated 6-0 to begin their season last fall.
As the season progresses, Phillips said he simply would like to see his team continue to improve.
The weather surely will.