XENIA — Head coach John Bongers has challenged his Xenia players with new ideas to take onto the pitch with them this season.
There’s still a learning curve for his squad as evidenced by a 3-0 loss to Troy at home on Tuesday, but the score wasn’t as indicative as how the game played out.
But the one clear thing that the Bucs are still working on can be seen in the result: A lack of scoring.
“We just need to keep working on repetitions and playing in tight spaces,” Bongers said. “Once it clicks, it’ll start flowing and I think it’ll go pretty good.”
The Bucs’ players recognize the need for it as well, with a senior trio of Nate Fellie, John-Michael Higgins and Simon Dykman noting it as one of the top priorities for the team. After netting three in an opening win, Xenia has only scored once in the last five matches.
Xenia held its own through the initial 30 minutes of the first half against Troy, who got the upper hand in shots by a 12-1 margin. Xenia was able to push forward consistently and not give the Troy backline an on-field viewing pass to the match though while chances were traded by both sides.
The Trojans eventually broke through with 7:30 remaining until halftime when a corner kick from left of the Bucs’ net was sent in front of Fellie but unable to be cleared by the defenders. Troy’s Mitchell Davis, the team’s leading scorer, quickly got his left foot on the ball to knock it into the left side of the net.
“They’re a fast team,” Higgins said. “They’ve been playing together for a long time and were able to just get through our defense easily at times, but we weren’t going to give up quickly. They had to put the work in over and over and just wore us down there on the back line.”
The matchup saw the two MVL leaders in save percentage square off in net between Troy’s Sam Westfall ande Fellie.
Fellie made seven saves, six of which came in the first 40 minutes to keep his team in the game.
“I want to give them a little spark to go keep pushing and keep trying to score over and over,” Fellie said.
Xenia got on the move to start the second half and pressed Westfall into coming out of his net to corral balls.
While the Bucs’ kept the heat on, Troy was able to double its lead on a counter with under seven minutes remaining. Just over a minute later, Lucas Buschur made it two quick goals after receiving a breakaway pass through the middle of the field.
Xenia got one final chance to break through with 1:12 remaining on a penalty kick attempt after Jack Uszynski was run over by two defenders and Westfall near the six-yard box.
Showing off his prowess, Westfall dove to his right on Higgins’ attempt to secure his first full game shutout of the season.
“We had probably six or seven chances of our eight in the last 10 minutes,” Higgins said in speaking about Tuesday’s defeat. “We’ll just keep going until we wear down defenders.”
That’s all a team can do is move on after a loss and try and learn what works and what doesn’t. Xenia is trying to gather that information quickly and hopes it leads to better results soon.
“We just have to evaluate and put the pieces together,” Dykman said.