By PAUL GOTHAM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Under Mike Butler’s direction, the Greece Athena boys’ soccer program has won more than 70 games over the past six seasons. During that time, the Trojans have claimed three sectional titles and one New York State Class A crown.
But Butler’s XI hasn’t been able to beat Fairport.
That changed on Monday.
Dylan Rice connected on a pair of second-half goals, and the Trojans stayed undefeated in their past six games with a 3-1 win over the Red Raiders.
“First time, O-and-five coming into that one,” Butler said of his record against Fairport. “We’ve had teams that could or should have beaten them, but they’ve always gotten us. It’s one of those things.”
Rice, who has scored at least one goal in six of the past seven games, found the back of the net twice midway through the second half.
The junior midfielder gathered a pass from Brennan Schmitt and connected from just outside the 18-yard box to break a one-all tie.
“I saw the ball come and let it run across my body,” Rice explained. “Their left back checked in and I saw him stutter a little bit. I knew I had a window. I just sliced it far corner.”
Athena led 2-1 with 25:19 remaining.
“I knew the goalie was cheating near post and I had to put it far post.”
Little more than three minutes later, Rice added to the lead when he took a Nate Masucci pass in stride and made it a 3-1 game.
The Trojans had struggled to get the ball behind Fairport keeper Michael Nesser for the first 50 minutes of the match. Rice, though, scored on back-to-back shots.
“Just kept going at him,” Rice said of the offensive approach in the second half. “We knew we would score eventually. Coach kept telling us to go at him.”
Seconds after Rice’s first goal, Athena keeper Jared Burns denied Jude Rouhana with a spectacular leaping save on a shot from outside the 18-yard box that looked destined to slip under the crossbar for an equalizer.
“It was difficult to read,” Burns said of the shot. “A defender was in front of me. I saw it at the last second and I went for it. I saw it coming in and I had to save it.”
“I had the perfect angle,” Rice said of his view of Rouhana’s attempt. “That was going top corner if Jared wasn’t there. He got a few fingers to it.”
Rice leads Athena with nine goals on the season, all those tallies coming over the past seven games. He scored two apiece also in wins over Greece Arcadia and Brockport.
Having surrendered 10 goals during a three-game stretch in mid-September (two losses and a tie), the Trojans have allowed just four goals combined over the past five games.
Butler pointed to Michael Tracey’s contributions for the recent success.
“Since we switched him to the center back position (from midfield and attack) he has changed our defense. He’s fast and doesn’t let guys in our goalie easily.
“Our goaltending continues to get better and better. That’s been a big piece lately.”
Kingsley Malcolm gave Fairport the early lead when headed home a Ryan Collins cross in the 14th minute.
Michael Loiacono provided the equalizer for Athena nine minutes later.
Athena improved to 8-2-2 with the win. The Trojans play at Aquinas on Wednesday.
Fairport (No. 11 NYSSWA Class AA) fell to 8-3-2 with the loss. The Red Raiders host divisional foe Rush-Henrietta on Friday.