Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Another tough ending

Pandas shut out Ladybirds in region tournament once again

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands Director of Athletics Matt Haskamp stands with 9th Region All-Tournament members, from left, Kylie Stava, Claudia Hils and Olivia McQueary.
The road to state has gone through these two for a long time.

So it did not turn into much of a surprise that the Highlands Ladybirds and Notre Dame Pandas met for yet another 9th Region championship. The Ladybirds had the right setting in playing host to the region tournament at Tower Park.

But unfortunately for the hosts, a fourth consecutive postseason exit at the hands of the arch-rivals boiled down to one major stat.

A goose egg on the scoreboard.

The Pandas (19-6-1) scored the game's lone goal almost 11 minutes into the game and made it stand up on their way to a sixth consecutive 9th Region championship. Notre Dame also beat Highlands, 1-0 in the region semifinals last year after claiming a pair of 3-0 region tournament victories in the semifinals in 2014 and the region championship in 2013 at Dixie Heights.

Since the last region crown for the Ladybirds (20-3-1) in 2010, Notre Dame has outscored Highlands, 12-1 in eliminating the Ladybirds five of those six years on their way to two state championships. Highlands beat Notre Dame, 2-0 in the 10th Region championship also at Tower Park back in 2010 for that last region crown.

Also for the second straight year, Notre Dame beat Highlands in the region tournament after the Ladybirds downed the Pandas during the regular season. Highlands beat Notre Dame, 3-2 on Sept. 27 at Tower Park when senior Claudia Hils took a pass from Sydney Ossege and scored with 12 seconds left in the game.

Notre Dame outshot Highlands, 14-5 including 10-2 on goal. Ladybird junior goalkeeper Olivia McQueary recorded nine saves and Audrey Nienaber made two for the Pandas.

The Pandas once again played a physical style of soccer. Highlands drew two yellow cards on the same player leading to a red card and ejection and Notre Dame had one yellow card. Both teams had 13 fouls.

"They obviously came in with a game plan and it was, 'Let's rough up the younger girls' and I don't mean that with any disrespect," Wiefering said. "Let's foul them probably hard and let's get under their skin and let's watch these younger girls retaliate and I think that's what happened. It took their head out of the game a little bit because they were thinking more about getting hit when they received the ball. Also when they didn't have the ball, instead of playing defense and thinking about getting the ball back, they were thinking, 'How can I get her back?' It worked in their favor."

Highlands played a combination of 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 (defender-midfielder-forward) schemes and Notre Dame played a combination of 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 formations. The Pandas are known for their odd rushes up the field. While the Ladybirds limited those attacks to just one, that one time turned out to be the difference.

Notre Dame sophomore defender Maya Decker stepped in front of a Highlands pass on the left side of the attacking third, dribbled against a Highlands defender before crossing the ball to junior Midfielder Mary Tierney in the middle for the score.

"It was just a misplayed ball to the middle of the field," Wiefering said. "I really don't remember what happened on the end of it how they scored. I know it was 1-0 like last year, but it's a totally different circumstance I think. I think last year, we were lucky it wasn't 3-0. It's a lot harder to walk away because I felt we had the momentum until that goal was scored. It took a little bit of weight out of our sails. But it is what it is."

Highlands freshman Lauren Deckert had a great chance to tie the game with 18:02 left in the half. She had an open shot just outside the 18-yard box, but her kick flew just a bit high.

"Maya Decker was a JV player this year" said David Gronotte, Notre Dame Head Coach. "With all the injuries we've had, we saw Maya as someone who could come in and attack. So we put her in there. This is probably just her sixth game being in that role. But she does a great job of getting it on the left side and playing it to the middle area for Mary (Tierney) to finish there."

The Ladybirds thought they tied the game with 14:50 left in the game. Freshman Ali Gessner found sophomore Lindsey Meyer open in the middle. She booted the ball past Nienaber into the goal. But the side judge ruled Meyer off-sides negating the goal.

"Highlands is great on the counter-attack," Gronotte said. "They're very quick and like to get the ball out in front. So we talked about any chance they have to counter just get it off their feet then we'll regroup. I felt if we could keep our back four organized behind the ball, we were in pretty good shape. They did a good job."

Highlands did have another chance to score with 11:46 left in the game. Highlands senior Kiersten Clukey booted the ball ahead. But Nienaber made it to the ball before Gessner could attempt a shot.

Highlands graduates seven seniors in goalkeeper Shannon Eaton, Kayla Nehus, Clukey, Annalee Brewer, Karolyn Lukjan, Sydney Ossege and Hils. Hils and Brewer are cousins. Clukey recently accepted an offer to play college soccer at Campbellsville University of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics.

"I think last year we ended up 71st in the state," Brewer said. "This year, we built it back so much and no one thought we could do it. We literally broke computers trying to do calculations on our rankings. We became so good. I think that we're going to escalate even more in the years to come. All the younger girls are really good."

This team still accomplished a lot. The Ladybirds beat Newport Central Catholic twice for their ninth district championship in 11 years and also won 20 games in a season for the first time since the 2006 state championship team won 21. Highlands also recorded wins over 12th Region champion West Jessamine and 3rd Region and All "A" State champion Owensboro Catholic.

Post-Season 9th Region Honors for Bluebirds:

Highlands junior Drew Rom and senior Colton Dolezal made the 9th Region All-Tournament Team. Rom also made the all-region First Team Defense and Dolezal made the all-region First Team at Midfield. Senior Solomon Farris made the Third Team All-Region Forward and senior Ethan Mills received Honorable Mention at Midfield. Senior Simon Frink received the Scott Christian More than a Match Award.

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