By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — The last three years, the Troy boys soccer team has narrowly missed its chance at a division title.
And even though the Trojans are entering a new league this year, the competition remains the same.
Troy has finished second behind Tippecanoe in the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division standings each of the past three seasons — trailing by only half a game last year. And long-time Troy coach Richard Phillips fully expects to be butting heads with the Red Devils once again as the teams enter play in the new Miami Valley League this year.
Troy will compete against Tippecanoe, Butler, Piqua and Greenville — all former GWOC American North Division rivals — the MVL’s Miami Division this year. Former division rival Sidney jumps to the MVL’s Valley Division this year along with Fairborn, Xenia, West Carrollton and Stebbins. Last year Troy went 9-1 in the division, with the only loss a 2-0 defeat to Tippecanoe, while the Devils were 9-0-1, tying Butler 1-1.
“The league really stays the same as the old league,” Phillips said. “I expect it’ll be us, Tipp and Butler again. We’ll see what happens with the league.
“As far as the new league goes, that’s expected (people making a big deal of it being ‘new’). You have your negatives and positives about that. To me, we’re still playing the same teams. You still have to pick up your crossover games, and it’s all the same teams, whether it’s North and South or Miami and Valley.”
Troy has made sure to keep the non-league portion of its schedule challenging, too, with teams like Fairmont, Wayne and Northmont from the GWOC, as well as Lima Shawnee and Bellefontaine on it. And the Trojans begin the season on the road at Carroll on Saturday, facing a Division I district runner-up from last season right out of the gate.
“It will be good for us. We will be tested early,” Phillips said. “It won’t really give us a gauge of where we are, but it will test us physically, because of our depth. We will have to manage our time. And that’s something we’ll have to do all season. There’s the possibility where, at times, we’ll have to bring up players from the JV squad. It’s going to be different for us.”
And that lack of depth could be an issue for the Trojans.
“We’re down in numbers, for one thing,” Phillips said. “We only have 14 field players and two keepers this year, and the JV squad is down, as well. We’re going to have to really manage how we play this year.”
The Trojans do have a solid number of players returning from last year’s team, though — and quality to go with that quantity, too.
Leading the way is returning senior Elijah Williams, who led the team in goals scored with 13 and was second in scoring with 29 points to graduate Connor Hubbell.
Fellow seniors Reece Sherman, Nathan Kleptz, Tyler Owens and Mitchell Francis also return, as do juniors Sam Kazmaier, Jon Hipolito and Gavin Marshall. Sherman will help anchor the defense as a returning starter, with Lewis, Kleptz and Kazmaier all returning in the midfield and Hipolito, Marshall and Williams up top. Hipolito was fourth on the team in scoring last year with five goals and eight assists, Kleptz had five goals and two assists, Marshall scored four goals, Francis had a goal and three assists and Sherman had two goals and one assist.
Where the Trojans don’t have much experience is defense, though, with Sherman being the only returning starter in the backfield. Troy also graduated a pair of senior goalkeepers in Nicholas Grizwold and Zachariah Terrill and will be looking to fill that hole, as well.
“We have the experience there with kids coming back,” Phillips said. “But especially defensively, we have new players in the back that will have to learn really quick.
“Seniors Chance Goodwin and Jake Grey both played JV last year, and junior Caleb Steggeman, who was hurt most of last year, will help on defense. We also have coming back from last year’s JV squad Winston Walton, Jaden Williams and Ben Estrada. And our two keepers are sophomore Sean Miller and senior Kyler Reed.”
But even with a thin lineup depth-wise, the Trojans are still counting on their veterans to help lead them in achieving their goal — ending Tippecanoe’s streak and winning the first MVL Miami Division championship.
“It’s going to be different for us, but the kids right now are working hard, and they’re working together,” Phillips said. “They have one goal, and that goal is to see if we can win the inaugural MVL title. And with the experience we have, I think we can do it.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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