TRAVERSE CITY — Round 1 to TC West — by the slimmest of margins.
In the first regular season meeting between West and TC Central — the last two undefeated boys soccer teams in the Big North Conference — Cam Sipple’s first-half goal was the difference in a 1-0 victory for the Titans on Thursday at TC West.
Sipple played a ball into Ty Troxell, then got it back out front of the Central net and put it past the reach of Central keeper Carl Gardner in the 17th minute of play.
“He played it off to me and I just hit it right,” said Sipple. “Carl, their goalkeeper, his view was blocked. I don’t think he saw anything. He’s a great goalkeeper and it was a great game. I was pretty confident. It was a good strike. I don’t normally hit the ball that well. That was a good one.”
Sipple’s goal was part of a first half that was mostly dominated by the Titans because of a stiff wind. Conversely, the Trojans were able to control play in the second half with the wind in their favor. The only difference was Central couldn’t convert its chances as West keeper Justin Kraft made a few big-time saves to keep the Trojans out of the net, jumping up to deflect a couple shots that had a chance to sneak into the back of the net.
“It was a tale of two halves, obviously. With the wind in the first half they dominated possession and had chances. In the second half we did the same thing,” said TC Central coach Rob Boynton. “Cam Sipple had a brilliant strike. That’s a wonder goal and he deserved it. There was quite a few chances in the second half I’d like to have back. We’ll just have to work on finishing our opportunities. Against good teams you don’t get very many. We have to capitalize.”
Central (7-5-1) came into the contest holding a one-half game lead in the Big North Conference standings with an unblemished mark after five league contests. West (5-5-1), which started off the year slowly against tough non-league foes, jumped into sole possession of first after the win with a 5-0 record.
“(The win) is confidence for us because we haven’t done well in our non-league schedule,” said West coach Jason Carmien. “It’s also nice to win the first round to give us confidence as the season goes on. I don’t think there is a lot of difference between the two teams. It was very close. Central had several opportunities with the wind so the next two games we play with this team will probably be just as close.
“Anytime you can win in the rivalry it feels good, and I know the kids enjoy it and our fans are out. It’s a nice result for us because we haven’t done well in big games yet this year.”
The Titans’ biggest problem has been on offense, where goals have sometimes been hard to come by. The defense has stepped up in their wins and figures to improve once they get to full strength.
“We need to rely on our defense,” said Carmien. “We don’t score a lot of goals and we certainly don’t score a lot of goals against good teams and Central is a good team. Tonight, Lucas Meyer played very well, Kyle Flynn played very well. We’ll get some people back off of injury that will help that back line out a little bit.”
Sipple didn’t downplay a victory in the crosstown rivalry that featured a lively crowd for both sides on a chilly and blustery night.
“It means everything. We started out real slow,” said Sipple. “Coach said we needed to step our game up and play more intense and that’s exactly what we did. This is a big deal.”