By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy boys soccer coach Richard Phillips knows the old adage “survive and advance” when it comes to postseason play.
But he also wants to see his Trojans play the quality game they’re capable of while doing it.
And even though fourth-seeded Troy eventually pulled away from No. 13 Stebbins for a 4-0 victory in the opening round of the Division I sectional tournament Monday night at Troy Memorial Stadium, Phillips was not very pleased with what he saw during those 80 minutes.
“(Getting to the next game) is what’s important, but for us to get to the next game, we’re going to have to play well,” he said. “If we execute and do the things we need to be doing, we’ll get to the next game. But when you don’t do those things, you have to battle for it and seize an opportunity here or there to get it done.”
Troy did score its fourth straight win and improved to 15-2 on the season, while Stebbins was eliminated and finished the year 7-6-4. But even though the Trojans controlled play practically from start to finish, allowing the Indians only one shot on goal in the game, it was what the Trojans didn’t do with the ball that bothered Phillips far more than what they did with it.
“We played in their half of the field, but we didn’t have any purpose tonight,” Phillips said. “We didn’t play with a purpose. We were passing the ball to them — we completed more passes to the white shirts than the red shirts — and there was no purpose going into the attacking third.
“We didn’t play well tonight. We missed a lot of opportunities. Too many balls in the air, not getting the ball on the ground to feet, not getting the ball to teammates. We just didn’t do the right things tonight. We didn’t play well.”
Troy began the game with a significant number of key players in street clothes, out with various injuries, but Phillips would not let that be an excuse.
“We’ve got injuries, but we still have to go out there and play well,” he said. “We still have to be able to pass the ball. Like I told the guys — if you can’t pass, you can’t play. It’s the lifeblood of the game.”
With 25:30 remaining in the first half, the Trojans showed a glimpse of what they’re capable of.
After a shot by Connor Hubbell was deflected wide, giving Troy a chance at a corner kick, Hubbell sent the ball into the center of the box, where Gavin Marshall connected with it on the back end and deflected it into the net to give Troy a 1-0 lead.
That was where things remained for the majority of the half, though — and the Indians gave the Trojans a scare at the six-minute mark.
Stebbins played a long, high pass into Troy’s defensive end, and goalkeeper Nicholas Griswold came forward while a defender came backward for it, challenged by one Stebbins player. As it took a high bounce, though, neither Trojan committed to making a play on it, allowing the Indians to get to it first and get off an open shot — sending it wide right by less than a foot.
That play could have either turned the momentum in Stebbins’ favor or been a wake-up call for the Trojans had it gone in, but in the half’s final minute Kasheen Perdue gave Troy some much-needed breathing room, hitting a shot from a difficult angle along the right side that somehow found its way inside the far post and in with only 15 seconds on the clock to give the Trojans a 2-0 halftime lead.
Stebbins took its only shot on goal one minute into the second half, which Griswold easily wrapped up, and with 30:41 left in the game the Trojans capitalized on another corner kick by Hubbell. This time, the ball went through Stebbins’ keeper’s hands, and Joey Sheehan was able to punch it in to make the score 3-0 Troy.
And after dishing out two assists, Hubbell finally got a goal for himself with 9:25 remaining, taking a pass from Jon Hipolito and ripping a 25-yarder that was deflected by a defender but not enough to change its path toward the goal, putting the Trojans up 4-0 and allowing them to coast from there.
It was the second time the Trojans defeated the Indians this season — back on Aug. 30, in the fourth game of the season, Troy routed Stebbins 7-0 on the road, a matchup that could have had the Trojans looking past the Indians.
“I think so,” Phillips said when asked if the previous game against Stebbins played into how the team played Monday night. “We went out there early in the year and had an easy win, then we came out here tonight and thought we could do the same thing. But it’s a different season. Those kids want to play as hard as they possibly can because they know that if you lose, you go home.”
The Trojans will now face No. 7 Miamisburg, a 2-0 winner over No. 12 Tecumseh, Thursday at Troy Memorial Stadium.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.