by BRYAN EVERSON
Troy had the look of a team with comfort on its side Saturday afternoon, and not just because the team was playing within its own confines.
The Colts did well to hold the ball and capitalized well enough to score a 2-1 non-league victory over Macomb Dakota.
More than just a buzzword in the sport, the comfort was apparent in the home side, who exerted their style with success for a majority of 80 minutes, and put in a shift with a display of effort to win back balls frequently, particularly in key moments. One of them would result in what turned out to be the game-winning goal as sophomore Tahra Brodbine capitalized off a misplayed ball and lifted her shot past Dakota (3-8-0) goalkeeper Brooke Thomas just under four minutes into the second half to give her team a two-goal lead at the time.
“We focus on winning balls, and we’ve been doing that for the past week and a half, just getting the balls and winning them,” Troy coach Dan Troccoli said. “But we’ve also focused on our possession, and I think you saw that out there. A lot more passes. The ball’s on the ground a lot more, we’re moving it a lot better. And we’re moving it off into spaces.”
“We’re playing a game where we’re not having to chase anything. We’re maintaining possession, and that’s how we want to play. When we did lose the ball, it was get it back with high pressure, and that’s what we want to do.”
Troy managed its initial strike just under 10 minutes into the opening half when a turnover allowed forward Caroline Schlimgen to slip a pass to her right to Sydney Hyatt, who was able to retain the ball despite a challenge from a Dakota defender and fired to the left of Thomas, who was unable to alter the ball drastically enough to keep it from rolling into the net.
Dakota appeared to grow into the game as the first half progressed, creating several moments that looked capable of producing a leveler. Hailey Ritchie played a diagonal ball over the Colts’ left back — something Troy is also adept at doing at times — and Brenne Butkovich nearly chased it down inside the box with 23 minutes to play in the first. Six minutes later, Meagan Mulrenin lifted a service in from the left side near the corner flag, but wasn’t quite able to connect with the target inside the box.
Still, none of it was enough to curtail Troy, which came out of halftime looking deserving of the second goal. Each team featured a formation with five players in the middle, and the pressure and ability to string together passes got the better of the Cougars, who deployed in a 3-5-2.
“We just tried to put their back line on their heels,” Troccoli said. “He only played three in the back, so we moved one of our center mids up higher, and obviously we looked into spaces. We had the ability to also push another one of our defensive center mids higher, so we had a little bit more in the middle, and when we won the ball there, our forward and center attacking mid were pressuring high and kept them [back].”
Gary Schodowski’s team looked to be reinvigorated with passion following the Cougars’ lone goal that saw Hannah Lerner chest down the ball and slot it past Troy goalkeeper Lindsay Bolas from inside eight yards with 6:48 remaining in the match, but the Colts stayed composed and shuffled the ball well in the closing minutes to prevent Dakota from finding a pull-even moment.
The play of Troy’s wide backs, including sophomore Lauren Miller, played a key role in the victory.
“Lauren contributed well,” Troccoli said. “The [outside backs] do a great job, her, Alexa [Kotsovos], and Bri Nogoy, they step up very well into space and win balls, and they allow us to switch the ball to the back who stepped up into the space, who can get involved in the attack as well. We’re getting a lot more people moved forward and involved, and when we switch the ball to that outside back who moves into that space, which is what Lauren does well, we’re very dangerous.”
Troy (4-3-1) did suffer a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Rochester Adams on Thursday night, and will look to rebound in games against Grand Blanc and Pontiac Notre Dame Prep before a rivalry showdown with Athens on Thursday.