ATHENS — It was a typical Troy-Athens girls’ soccer match on Tuesday.
Physical, exhausting, relentless play as the two NTL heavyweights went back and forth.
But at the end of the night they were fit to be tied as it ended in a 1-1 draw.
“It feels a little good and bad,” Troy’s Sophie Shedden remarked. “I wanted to win but we played awesome tonight and I’m proud of every single one of us.”
Despite winning seven straight league titles it was the type of game Athens has come to expect from Troy.
“Troy is our biggest competition in the NTL,” said Athens’ Emma Roe. “They know how to play and they know how to compete.”
It’s rare for a game like this to be so early in the season — Athens’ second and Troy’s opener — and it showed at times.
“We’ve had a few scrimmages before the season started,” Roe explained. “But they are definitely tough and when we just started and not being technically sound makes them tougher.”
The Wildcats kept the action in Troy’s end for much of the first half. Roe especially had a high work rate in the middle, at one point changing direction three times with the ball as she tried to get through the Trojan defense.
“Their midfield is one of their strongest points and it’s one of ours too,” said Roe. “You have to work as hard as possible and give 110 percent if you want to compete.”
The Trojans knew defense would be key against a strong offensive team like Athens.
“We we’re really trying to go defensive strong this whole game,” explained Shedden. “We had to adjust because they do have speed on their offense. We made some changes and I feel like we did an amazing job.”
The Trojan back four were busy all night long, especially Sophie and Sadie Shedden, who did a good job cleaning up in the front of the box.
“Sadie and I work really well together,” Sophie remarked. “I can’t imagine playing defense with anyone else.”
Finally, with 15:35 on the clock Athens scored on a corner kick. Hannah Walker found Abby Sindoni, who split two Troy defenders, squared up a clean look at the goal and punched it in for the 1-0 lead.
“Abby is definitely one of our strongest offensive players on our team,” Roe said. “She’s someone who brings a ton of energy, we just feel comfortable with her at the top.”
A 1-0 lead for Athens was big in a game where Troy couldn’t get much going offensively.
But 10 minutes later they got a break away as Camille McRoberts found Morgan Graybill. Graybill drove the end line on the left side of the box then shot a rocket into the far right corner to make it 1-1.
Seeing that ball go in renewed Troy’s defenses spirit as they geared up to end the half strong.
“It was the best feeling ever,” said Sophie.
The second half saw Troy gain more possession and threaten more in Athens’ end, but as the time ticked down the Wildcats once again pushed Troy deep into their own end. They had several looks at goal but none of the shot were on target and the two teams went into overtime.
In the first half of OT Troy controlled the action, pinning the Lady ‘Cats back. The Wildcat defense held strong, keeping Troy from getting open looks at goal.
Momentum reversed itself in the second half of OT as Athens put the pressure on the Trojans. Sindoni, in particular, caused problems and finally found a clean look but Troy goalie Autumn Dixon came up with her biggest save, using both forearms to knock away a point blank try with a minute left to go to keep it tie.
Athens had the edge in shots 11-5 and in corner kicks 8-1. Dixon made 10 saves and Wildcat goalie Madisyn Joslyn made four saves.
The Wildcats hope to use this as focal point to improve from.
“I feel like it pushes us harder in practice and in games,” Roe said. “Just to come together as a team.”
Troy has had trouble with Athens’ turf in the past. Going forward, now that they got that game out of the way, the next will be in East Troy, which is as different a field as you can get.
“We do have some bumps that move the ball a different way than you would think it was going,” said Sophie, but she shot down any notion that they have an advantage. “I feel like it’s going to be two great teams heading up to that home game.”