By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — Julianna Williams doesn’t mind being Troy’s go-to player in big games.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but I think I play better under pressure,” the junior said. “When I know I have to get something is when I go after it the hardest. And I like being able to be relied on.”
Wednesday night, Williams showed how she can be relied on in a rivalry matchup against visiting Sidney, scoring two goals and assisting on the other in the Trojan girls soccer team’s 3-1 Miami Valley League crossover victory at Troy Memorial Stadium.
And while the two teams aren’t division rivals anymore, the game still had plenty of implications in the MVL standings.
Troy improved to 8-2-2 overall and 5-1 in the MVL Miami with the win, still trailing Tippecanoe by one game in the division standings. Sidney, meanwhile, fell to 5-6-2 overall and remains in a tie with Fairborn for the MVL Valley Division lead at 3-2-1.
“Troy-Sidney is always going to be a rivalry game because we’ve always had good matchups over the years,” Troy coach Michael Rasey said. “We’ve had close games, good matchups, we know each other very well, so it’s always going to have that intensity.”
Wednesday, no one was more intense than Williams.
Williams and Leah Harnish each had shots in the game’s first three minutes that forced Sidney goalkeeper MaKayla Hurey to make tough saves. And with 34:10 left in the opening half, Williams ripped a shot from a tough angle on the left side that went just wide of the far post.
But just a few seconds later at the 33:46 mark, Williams got a second chance from nearly the exact same spot, and this time she made good on it, driving the ball into the far side of the net on an assist from Anna Burghardt to give Troy a 1-0 lead.
“It’s just my lucky shot, my go-to shot,” Williams said. “Their defenders noticed it, too, and talked about it to each other — but they still didn’t mark it, so I just went for it.”
“She’s having a player-of-the-year kind of season,” Rasey said of Williams. “She’s unquestionably one of the best players in the Dayton area. Nobody can deny that at this point. She does things on a soccer field that few others can really do, she’s that kind of a special player.”
That was where the score remained at halftime, though, despite numerous chances by the Troy offense as Hurey made save after save to keep Sidney alive — and Williams and the Trojans knew they needed more.
“I was still hungry. I wanted more goals,” Williams said. “I think we came out really strong in the second half, and we needed that because they could have countered if we didn’t.”
And with 37:27 left in the game, Williams gave the Trojans some insurance. Chamber Browning stole the ball in Sidney’s defensive end and passed to an open Williams, who hooked a left-footed shot inside the near post from the right side to give Troy a 2-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for more insurance, either. Burghardt hit a high-arcing shot that Hurey deflected over the top of the goal to set Troy up with a corner kick. Williams sent the kick low in front of the goal, and Browning headed it into the goal to make the score 3-0 Trojans.
“Our offensive attack has weapons across the board,” Rasey said. “I wouldn’t want to defend us for 80 minutes. They just bring an intensity that keeps the pressure on the opposing team’s defense. And there are times where they’re as important to us defensively as they are offensively because they’re keeping that other team pinned in and they’re not able to get forward.
“When the other team has to account for our attack and our speed and our creativity, it makes them second-guess having to be more aggressive getting forward. And our girls have proven that when they’re on the field together, they’re a pretty lethal combination.”
With Troy’s first team resting, Sidney was able to take advantage and get on the board, with MaKayla Dillinger scoring with 16:21 remaining to make the score 3-1, but Troy controlled the final 11 minutes of the game, again keeping the Sidney defense pinned up against its own goal to finish off the win.
With the two goals and an assist, Williams now has 13 goals, nine assists and 35 points on the season, leading the MVL in scoring by eight points over Xenia’s Alayna Vela. Williams is also climbing Troy’s all-time career lists, sitting in 12th with 36 goals, seventh with 29 assists and ninth with 101 points.
Hurey made 14 saves on the night for Sidney, while Troy’s Paige Nadolny was only forced to make four saves to preserve the Troy victory.
Troy hosts Beavercreek on Monday before traveling to Tippecanoe for its shot at the MVL Miami Division leader on Oct. 2.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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