BY JAKE LOURIM
TROY — Troy and Rochester Adams may have lost some Academy soccer players, but Tuesday night looked like the same old Troy-Adams rivalry.
Troy scored first in the second half, but the Highlanders came back to take this edition of the rivalry, 2-1, at Troy.
Annually two of the top soccer programs in the state, Adams and Troy were hit hardest by the new Academy rule. But after a very defensive first half, the teams started to put together some
Troy senior Zac Doepke scored in the 50th minute, the second straight game he’s put the Colts ahead. Senior Nieem Alatassi sent a cross into the box, and a defender’s deflection bounced it to Doepke wide-open in front of the goal.
“We wanted to get balls wide,” Troy coach Brian Zawislak said. “Once we get behind, [we talked about] good composure and finishing, and Zac did that.”
He trapped it, took a clean touch and blistered it into the upper half of the net to put Troy ahead.
With the way the game had been up to that point, the Colts thought they had the game in hand. Adams had other plans.
“We felt we had the game sealed,” Doepke said. “We just got caught off-guard, and our defense got caught flat-footed.”
Adams came back in the next 24 seconds and sent the ball down the right flank. Freshman A.J. Shaw lofted a cross into the box for a perfect diving header from Bryan Kane. The Colts hadn’t had the lead for a minute before Adams tied it up again.
“(Those) five minutes after you score are so important,” Zawislak said. “Unfortunately, we let them right back in within those five minutes.”
“We tried to play the same way the whole game,” Hickey said. “We just had that opportunity right away, and we finished it. We had opportunities that we didn’t finish. Really, I think it was just that they woke up, they wanted to score, they had the chance and they did. I don’t think there was a magic fix on that. They just did it.”
Play settled down after that, although Troy sophomore Nate Bladecki flicked up a cross from John Mancuso, only to have Adams goalie Grant Gibson make a nice save.
Finally, Adams got another chance with five minutes to go. Shaw ran down the right flank and had mere inches on Troy left back Danny Berger. Just before Berger ran in to block it, Shaw launched a perfect shot that sailed into the upper-left corner of the net.
The Colts were disappointed after the loss because they hadn’t given up a shot on goal the entire first half.
The teams only a few times advanced into the final third, but Troy had the advantage because it won many of the 50-50 balls, simply by playing more physically. When two players got to the ball at the same time, more often it was the Troy player who won.
“It just takes heart more than anything,” Doepke said. “Just getting your foot in more than anything, and if we keep winning those, we should do well as the season progresses.”
The problem was, Troy couldn’t generate any of that possession into a scoring opportunity until the second half.
“We match up really well, and when we put pressure on teams, I don’t think a lot of teams can hang with us,” Zawislak said. “We just need to do a better job of creating chances from that defending.”
Troy could get a chance for redemption in the playoffs. The Colts ousted Adams last year 3-1. In a brutal district that includes Adams, Rochester and Rochester Stoney Creek as well as Troy, Athens and Utica Eisenhower, there are no guarantees. But Troy and Adams could renew the rivalry again.
In that case, both teams will know what to expect.
“I think we just need to do a better job of focusing on those five minutes after [a goal] and not letting them right back into the game,” Zawislak said.
Troy will play another team in its district, Utica Eisenhower, at home Friday.
(Jake Lourim is a junior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)