Troy Zaps in Pair in District Win Over Rochester

ROCHESTER HILLS There’s no such thing as style points on the soccer pitch. If there was, Troy would have defeated Rochester by a sizeable margin Monday.

Still, the Colts used a couple of lasers from long distance to oust host Rochester 2-0 in a Division 1 district opener. The Colts, ranked third in the state, scored both goals in the first half to eliminate the Falcons for the second times in three years. Even Troy coach Dave Hicklin was impressed on the Colts’ two goals, and they came against one of the better goalies in the state. Hicklin said his team had worked on finishing opportunities in recent practices.

“We had a training session Saturday and worked on a lot of different set pieces, but none of them looked like that,” said Hicklin. “They were two pretty spectacular goals. You can’t blame the goalkeeper on those. The second (goal) was really spectacular.”

Troy began the year 13-0-0 but the OAA Red Division champions had sputtered during recent weeks. The Colts finally got untracked last week with a 7-1 blasting of Grosse Pointe North, then followed that up with Monday’s district triumph.

Troy left no doubt on two of its grand scoring opportunities of the first half.

Zachary Doepke retrieved a pass from Sean Cunningham and blasted a shot from 32 yards out that landed top shelf. With pace, Rochester goalkeeper Chris Stewart had no chance to make she stop.

Troy (16-2-1) benefitted from a Rochester foul 22 seconds before halftime. Cunningham, one of the leading candidates for the Mr. Soccer award, laced a bending free kick from 30 yards out that found the upper 90 of the net, dipping under the crossbar at the last second.

“There’s not a keeper in the world that stops those two shots,” offered Rochester coach Chris Purgatori. “I’ve said it all along, the four years that Chris has been here, he’s been the best keeper in the state. He didn’t deserve what happen tonight, but he kept us in the game and gave us opportunities.”

The Falcons’ best chance came with 29 minutes to go in the second half, when Matt Brady’s left-footed bending shot from the top of the 18 was stopped cold by Smolinski.

Rochester (6-7-6) moved sophomore Miles Dale, last year’s leading scorer, up top in the second half to try to ignite the Falcons’ offense inside the final 20 minutes. Brady also ripped a shot off the outside of the goal post with 15 minutes left following a cross from Dale, but Rochester could not net the matching goals.

“I truly felt that the championship was going to be won here tonight, whoever won this game I thought had a clear path to the district finals and a great shot to win,” said Purgatori. “It’s disappointing that it had to be, in my view, the top two teams facing each other in the first game. To be honest, I never understand how they draw up the districts, but you deal with the cards your dealt. U,nfortunately it didn’t go our way tonight.”

Smolinski, one of the top sophomore goalkeepers in the state, finished with four saves, good for the Colts’ 12th shutout in 19 games.

Stewart, one of the top senior goalkeepers in the state, finished with 10 saves in his encore contest. Stewart, a four-year starter, also stopped a breakaway by Cunningham in the second half to keep his team within striking distance.

Troy outshot Rochester by a commanding 15-5 margin, including 12-4 with shots on frame. The Colts will play at Walled Lake Central in Wednesday’s 5 p.m. district semifinal against Waterford Mott (8-7-3), which blanked Pontiac 2-0 in another first-round game Monday.