By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — With roughly 26 minutes to go in Tuesday’s game, a Troy Christian player hit a point-blank shot that a Stivers defender reflexively grabbed — despite the fact that he wasn’t the goalie, setting up a penalty kick and the Eagles’ final goal of the night. As he handed the ball to the official, he gave a look that said “what choice did I have?”
Once the Troy Christian boys soccer team got rolling, there was simply no stopping it.
The Eagles, the No. 2 seed in the Division III sectional tournament, overcame something of a slow start in Tuesday’s opening-round matchup against No. 21 Stivers at Eagle Stadium, scoring consistently throughout the night to put away a 9-0 victory and advance to the next round.
Troy Christian, which improved to 13-2-2 with the win and will host No. 23 Northeastern in the second round Saturday, hadn’t played since its regular-season finale one week prior on Oct. 8 and needed to knock some rust off before beginning its quest for a fourth straight district title.
“We definitely didn’t want to take the bye,” Troy Christian coach Ryan Zeman said. “We wanted to play. Saturday, we’ll have another tune-up game and then we’ll have to be ready to play either Brookville or Newton on Tuesday. We’re just trying to carry some momentum into the tournament.”
The Eagles looked sharp early, too, scoring less than two minutes into the game. Connor Peters found A.J. Warden open for a 30-yard shot which rolled past the keeper and inside the far post to make the score 1-0 Troy Christian with 38:26 still remaining in the first half.
But Troy Christian did not get another goal until almost 13 minutes later. Warden sent a centering pass to Peters in the box, and Peters ripped a shot in to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead with 25:11 left in the opening half.
“We scored in the first minute and a half, and then I felt like we kind of were playing too comfortable,” Zeman said. “We just had to get refocused.
“Halftime wasn’t real positive just because we weren’t playing the way that I know we can play. We’ve got to be able to play at the level I know we can play to continue to go on in the tournament. If we play well, the sky is the limit.”
Once they broke through with that first insurance goal, though, the Eagles kept pouring it on the rest of the way.
Ty Davis sent a pass up the right sideline to Preston Lair, who ran around the defense and hit a shot to the far post that trickled off the diving keeper’s hands and in to make it a three-goal game with 18:54 on the clock. And with 17:03 left in the half, Evan Murphy took a pass from Tripp Schulte and blasted in a shot from 35 yards out to make the score 4-0 Troy Christian. Murphy then set up another goal by Lair with 9:19 on the clock, and the Eagles led 5-0 at the break.
“Evan Murphy, a freshman, gave us a nice spark off the bench,” Zeman said. “He had a nice goal and added an assist in the first half, which was the spark we needed to get over that little dull period that we had in the first half.”
The Eagles kept the attack up in the second half, and with 31:54 left in the game, Schulte sprung Lair on a breakaway with a pass to set up Lair’s third goal of the night to make it 6-0 and start the running clock per the OHSAA’s mercy rule.
Shortly after that with 28:18 remaining, Warden popped the ball up in front of the Stivers goal and Schulte finished by knocking it in to make the score 7-0. Less than a minute after that with 27:22 remaining, Peters crossed the ball in to Lair for his fourth goal of the night, making it 8-0.
And with 26:22 to go, Stivers’ defender committed the reflexive handball in the box on a shot rifled directly at his chest, setting up a penalty kick. Chas Schemmel converted the kick with 25:30 remaining to make the score 9-0, and the Eagles killed the clock from there.
Troy Christian goalie Tanner Conklin was only forced to make one save on the night on a Stivers shot in the final three minutes. Other than that, the Tigers only were able to take two shots at the goal, sending both well wide of the mark.
Lair led the Eagles with four goals on the night, Warden had one goal and three assists, Peters and Schulte each had one goal and two assists, Murphy had one goal and one assist, Schemmel had one goal and Davis had one assist.
Troy Christian’s second-round match against Northeastern begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at home.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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