Thursday, October 28, 2010

Strang saves the day: Troy High wins first postseason game in over 25 years

Jordan Schroeder, left, battles Columbia's Sam Kessler for control of the ball during Thursday's Section II Class AA opening round playoff game at Troy High School. For the second straight game, Schroeder scored the game-winning goal, although Thursday's came in the penalty kick round. (Photos by Mike McMahon - The Record).

TROY — Keeping a clean sheet has been the name of the game for the Troy High School boys soccer team all season.

Troy sophomore back Brandon Dory (left) and Columbia's Connor White (right) tussle for a loose ball during Thursday's Section II Class AA opening round playoff game at Troy High.
Bobby Strang took care of that in spectacular fashion Thursday afternoon in a Section II Class AA preliminary round game against Columbia.

Strang, Troy’s junior goalkeeper, made nine saves in regulation, two more in the first overtime and one in the second overtime as the teams played to a scoreless draw.

Troy's Shafi Kabir (10) heads the ball toward the net among a scrum of Columbia and Troy players during Thursday's game.

In the penalty kick round, Strang shone the brightest when the pressure was greatest. Strong stopped all four penalty kicks he faced and Jordan Schroeder and Mekhaldi Rafik scored penalty kick goals as the Flying Horses posted their first Section II playoff victory since the early 1980s at Troy High School.

“This is something we’ve wanted sine the first day,” Strang, at left, said of snapping the school’s postseason losing streak. “We didn’t have it until we beat Albany and then we were all focused on this. This was the biggest thing for us.”

Troy (15-0-1), the Big 10 Conference regular season champion and No. 1 seed, has outscored opponents 51-3 this season. The Flying Horses allowed one goal apiece in each of their final three regular season games, but Strang literally saved the day Thursday afternoon.

“Bobby? What else can you say?” said Troy head coach Mike Murnane. “That was just outright amazing. Not letting a ball touch the back of the net all day? That’s just unbelievable.”

Murnane, who played for Troy in the 1990s, could not remember exactly Troy’s last postseason win, but places it in the 1981-83 range.

Although neither team could score in regulation or in a pair of overtime periods, it was not for a lack of offensive chances.

Troy senior Sean Wilson, seen at left, racing Columbia's Drew Pintus for the ball, made a number of his signature long throw-ins toward the net, but could never connect with a teammate for a head-in goal. A strong wind blowing from west to east during much of the game frustrated players on both sides as they watched passes and shots miss their mark.

Columbia (2-13-2) received a valiant 17 saves in net from junior keeper Alex Morrison, pictured at right.

Schroeder, who was the hero for Troy High on Monday, scoring his first goal of the season with five seconds remaining in regulation in a 2-1 victory over Albany High that clinched the Big 10 title outright for the Flying Horses, had the golden foot again Thursday afternoon.

Troy’s first player to shoot a penalty kick, Schroeder beat Morrison to the high corner on Morrison’s right.

“We had one practice where we had a penalty shoot-off and I got by the third round and coach said, ‘OK, you’re going to be the penalty kicker,” Schroeder said. “I thought he was joking. So, since then, I’ve always had it in my mind, ‘go to my left.”

Troy's Wayne Russel attempts to corral a loose ball as a Columbia player has his back during Thursday's game.

“I couldn’t look. I knew if I watched, I knew I would either become very happy or very sad,” Strang said. “I just waited for the kick, waited to hear if it hit the net, hit the post or hit glove. I couldn’t stop there because we missed two of them. I had to keep going. I had to keep working.”

Troy will host Suburban Council No. 4 seed Ballston Spa (8-5-4) in a Class AA quarterfinal Monday at 3 p.m.

Troy's Brandon Wilson and Columbia's Nico Waligora challenge for the ball during Thursday's Section II Class AA playoff game at Troy High.

“It’s amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world right now,” said Strang. “It’s unbelievable. But I don’t know how we’re going to deal with it, because we haven’t seen anybody else do it.”

“It’s really awesome. We were looking online at the blogs and stuff and a lot of people didn’t think we could do it,” Schroeder, at right, said. “They thought the Suburban teams were going to crush us. It feels really good to prove them wrong.”

Columbia (2-13-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Troy (15-0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Troy advances on penalty kicks, 2-0.
Scoring: None.
Goalie saves: C: Morrison, 17. T: Strang, 12.
Corner kicks: C: 5. T: 8.

Troy's Jordan Schroeder (right) and Columbia's Caleb Milford battle for the ball during Thursday's game.
  • Notes: Columbia looked like it played a highly defensive style in the first half, content to keep Troy off the board rather than take any offensive chances itself. Since Troy had the wind at its back and Columbia goalkeeper Alex Morrison had the sun in his eyes in the first half, it wasn't a bad idea at all.
  • Early in the second half, Columbia rattled off three quick shots in the first five minutes, but Strang obviously saved them all.
  • Troy had a ton of set-piece shots off throw-ins and corners, but the wind wreaked havoc with their long-throw strategy. 
  • Here is the penalty kick play-by-play:
  • 1) Troy's Jordan Schroeder scores on a high kick to the left side of the net.
  • 2) Columbia's Logan Murphy is denied on a low kick to the right side.
  • 3) Troy's Will Valle kicked it toward the far right post, but Morrison made a sprawling, bobbling save to keep it out of the net.
  • 4) Columbia's Connor White, like Murphy, goes low and right, and Strang again makes the save.
  • 5) Troy's Mekhaldi Rafik buries a low shot to the left side for the Flying Horses' second goal.
  • 6) Columbia's Peter Browne goes to his left, but Strang is there to make a sprawling palm save.
  • 7) Troy's Shafi Kabir hits the crossbar, giving Columbia once last chance.
  • 8) Columbia's Tanner Chester goes to his left, but Strang is there again to make the game-winning save.
  • Although Troy advances to the next round of the playoffs, it goes in the book as a tie for both sides - the first time Troy didn't win a game outright this season. I think they'll take that, though.
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