Story Matters

Story Matters

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How many rounds of penalty kicks decided the latest Highlands-NC soccer rivalry?

Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands senior Vadim Lightner (22) tries to head one home while teammate Noah Sellers (7) gets in position. Newport Central Catholic's Paul Grosser (1), Seth Freppon (11) and Jacob Hensley (12) also get in position.
Allen Ramsey Photo. Highlands junior Ben Seiter (19) battles for the ball in Tuesday's 36th District title game. Highlands won 2-1 on penalty kicks.
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter

A normally-intense soccer game took longer to decide in this one.

The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds and Highlands Bluebirds soccer teams had to use penalty kicks to decide the 36th District championship on Tuesday at Tower Park. The Bluebirds won it in the ninth round, 2-1 for their first district championship since 2010.

The Bluebirds (9-8-5) won the district championship after starting off the season 0-6-3. But things started to change when they beat the Thoroughbreds (11-7-3), 1-0 on Sept. 11 at Tower Park.

“The boys are getting healthy,” said Matthew Winkler, Highlands Head Coach. “We’re playing well and starting to peak at the right time. It’s exciting for them. It’s what they worked hard for. It shows all the long days were worth it.”

Highlands beat NewCath, 1-0 in overtime in the 9th Region title game at Ryle last year on its way to the state quarterfinals. But NewCath won the district championship, 2-1. The Thoroughbreds had won three straight district titles entering the contest.

NewCath had not played in 10 days. But that did not hurt the Thoroughbreds.

“We took off the last week last year,” said Mike McDonald, NewCath Head Coach. “We wanted to leave it for rainouts. It really gets us healthy for the end of the season. We were ready for this game. I thought we played well at times and at times, I thought they had us on our heels. Congrats to them and I hope we see them in the finals.”

Teams play two 40-minute halves before two five-minute overtimes. The game ends when someone scores in overtime. It then goes to a best-of-five on penalty kicks before sudden-victory rounds.

The teams had to go to sudden-victory rounds because they both made four penalty kicks in the first five rounds. Both Highlands goalkeeper Nick Breslin and Newport Central Catholic goalkeeper Paul Grosser made one violation on penalty kicks and the opponents made the kicks after the violations. Goalkeepers have to stay on the line until the opponent hits the ball.

“It was a great game overall with two of the best keepers in my mind,” McDonald said. “We knew going in that it was going to be a battle. They’re playing good soccer now. We’re playing good soccer. There were a lot of opportunities missed both ways.”

Breslin made the game-winning save off Andrew Liles in that ninth round diving to his left and blocking the shot. Highlands freshman Drew Rom made his kick in that round to set up Breslin’s heroics.

“I look for their hips to open up or look for their knee. If their knee opens up, they’re going to my left or down the gut,” Breslin said. “If they curve it and keep it close, they’re going to my right side. You have to be on your toes looking for the right thing.”

Newport Central Catholic put up 11 shots to eight for Highlands. But the Bluebirds had more on goal, 5-4. Breslin and Grosser made three saves each.

Both teams had three corner kicks each and the fouls were nearly even. NewCath had 13 and Highlands had 12.

“We have huge respect for their team and their program,” Winkler said. “Both teams know how to play hard but respect each other at the same time. You don’t go out to hurt people. It’s fun.”

Junior Noah Sellers expressed disappointment to the coach staff after missing a one-on-one opportunity wide left with Grosser with 12:55 left in the game and his penalty kick. But Sellers did help get the game to overtime.

“As soon as we got the foul, I was thinking I had to put this ball to the back post and try to find the guy who wins the ball a lot in Adam Barbro,” Sellers said. “Luckily, he got his first varsity goal in an important game. I was glad to give that to him.”

An interesting turn of events came with 23:02 left in the game. One player from each team tangled near the line and NewCath drew a foul and the game’s lone yellow card. Sellers placed the free kick to Adam Barbro for the game-tieing goal.

NewCath scored with 16:11 left in the first half. Seth Freppon played a free kick into the box and Liles punched it in.

The region quarterfinals start Tuesday. Highlands will play host to its game and NewCath will hit the road. The semifinals and championship game will also take place at Tower Park.

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