By Josh Brown
TROY — With the score tied 1-1 and having seen Greenville sophomore goalie Jacob Maher make tons of stellar saves to keep the score that close, Troy’s Connor Hubbell knew the stakes as he lined up for his second-half penalty kick.
“I knew it was going to be the turning point of the game, and I was a little scared,” the senior said. “I didn’t want to let my team down, basically.”
He needn’t have worried.
After the goalie made his choice and dove to his left, Hubbell struck his shot straight up the middle to give the Troy boys soccer team the lead with 26:27 remaining in the game, and the Trojans held off the Green Wave from there for a hard-fought and physical 2-1 victory Thursday at Troy Memorial Stadium to open Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division play.
The win was Troy’s sixth straight since opening the season with a loss to Carroll, as the Trojans improved to 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the GWOC American North standings. Greenville, meanwhile, fell to 2-6-1 and 2-3-1 in the North.
But as Troy put up the majority of the offensive pressure on the night, Maher did everything to keep the Wave alive in the game. The Trojans outshot Greenville 14-3 on the night, with Maher making 12 saves and Troy keeper Zachariah Terrill needing to stop only two shots to preserve the win.
And with the memory of the 2016 season — where a 2-2 tie against Greenville at home proved to be the difference in the season as Troy finished behind North champion Tippecanoe by that one result — still fresh in their minds, the Trojans knew they needed Thursday’s game.
So when Hubbell’s penalty kick went in, he knew what it meant for the team.
“I just felt amazing,” Hubbell said. “I was happy. We definitely needed this one. (With Maher stopping all of those early shots) it mostly made us put our heads down, but we knew we had to keep our heads up.”
“When you look at it, this could have ended that way, as well,” Troy coach Richard Phillips said, referring to the tie in 2016. “It’s a message that you send — when you have chances, you have to take advantage. Because you never know.”
But with Troy winning relatively easily in its previous five matches, Phillips was glad to see the Wave put his team to the test — and even more happy to see his Trojans pass it.
“It was a fun game,” Phillips said. “We haven’t been in matches like this a lot this year. They tested us. It was physical. And we created a lot of chances. The score could have been much different if we finished. With the chances we had, even when we were open, we knocked the ball over the bar. But give Greenville credit — they played us hard.”
And with Troy unable to score early in the first half, Greenville even took a 1-0 lead. With 14:57 until halftime, Dylan Snyder sent in a high corner kick, and the ball slipped through Troy’s keeper’s hands as he attempted to intercept it. Ben Davidson was able to get a head on it in the air and redirect it into the net to put the Trojans down by a goal.
Troy responded quickly, though, as a Bailey Webb pass got Elijah Williams behind the Greenville defense. Williams hit a shot that was deflected by Greenville’s keeper but still trickled just inside the far post to tie the score at 1-1 with 11:16 left in the half — and that was the way things remained at the break.
The Trojans had a goal waved off by an offsides call nine minutes into the second half, but the Trojans kept the pressure on until a Greenville defender finally had to commit a foul in the box to prevent a score. That set up Hubbell with his penalty kick opportunity, though, and he made good on it to give Troy the lead — and even though the Trojans couldn’t put home an insurance goal, the defense made sure that one-goal lead held up.
“At the half, we asked them to keep the ball on the ground and keep the ball away from them — and that’s what we did,” Phillips said. “We created chances for ourselves. We just couldn’t finish, and we made the game closer than it should have been. When we create chances, we have to take advantage.”
Troy continues division play Tuesday, hosting Sidney.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.