|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior midfielder Blake Shuley dribbles forward in a recent game.|
But the Highlands Bluebirds soccer team (5-3 overall) wore down the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (5-4) in the second half on their way to a 4-2 victory at Morscher Sports Complex in front of a good crowd. The Bluebirds have won three in a row in the series.
The Bluebirds wound up out-shooting the Thoroughbreds, 26-16 including 9-6 on goal. Junior goalkeeper Will Burnham made four saves for Highlands.
"For us, it's not even so much that we're a fitter team. It means that we're a deep team," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "I even heard their people over say, 'How many subs are they able to put in?' because our level just didn't drop. You never know when that moment is going to come. They're all prepared and they're all going to play their roles. When we can keep 17 guys fresh on the field just kind of rotating through those 11 spots, we're going to be able to outwork most teams regardless if we're the fitter team."
The game did have its share of yellow cards. Two came on Highlands and one came on NewCath.
"Truthfully, I probably wasn't the best example in the first half," Niedert said. "I was probably trying to put blame on the guys, but we have some great leadership. Our captains in particular with Alan Ford, Blake Shuley and Nick Gish are not the most vocal captains, but they're the model captains regardless. They show they're going to put their best foot forward. If they don't put the ball in the back of the net, there's going to be some frustrations. But they handle the adversity and they move on. We really haven't gotten too many stupid yellow cards because of guys getting too emotional about the game."
Gish started the scoring with his team-high fourth goal of the season and sophomore Porter Hedenberg recorded his second assist. But the Thoroughbreds responded with two goals to go up 2-1 at halftime.
NewCath kept its lead until Highlands took it in a matter of 31 seconds. Shuley tied the game with his first goal of the year on the second assist of the year from Luke Schweitzer.
The Bluebirds then took the lead for good with 19:15 left in the game. Schweitzer booted the ball down the left side and freshman Max Farris put it in to put Highlands up 3-2. That marked the first goal of the year for Farris.
"It just worked out great," Farris said. "You don't even think about it. You just do it and hope it goes in."
Highlands did not sit back and try to hold the lead after that point. The Bluebirds kept attacking and added the final goal with 2:16 left in the game. Senior Joe Broering passed the ball to senior Elias Ordonez for his third goal of the season. That marked the first assist this year for Broering.
"Before I checked back in, I asked Coach Niedert what he wanted from me. I asked him if he wanted me to drop back and defend and he said, 'We have 12 minutes left and we need another goal," Ordonez said. "So I took that onto the field. I was like, 'I have faith in myself. I can score and I can put us more ahead. I can make sure we tuck this game away.' I did that successfully and we won. I saw (Broering's) back toward the goal. I was making sure he knew I was there for the cut-back. He played it in beautifully and I just took (the shot) and finished it."
Highlands played on grass for the second straight region game. But unlike the St. Henry game, the grass was cut short.
"When we were at St. Henry, it was long. It was ankle-high," Niedert said. "When we're really quick and we're able to depend on our speed to beat guys one-on-one, that becomes null and void when we're playing on tall grass. Our guys were able to react to the bumps here and there on this field. But at least it was short and quick so we were able to adapt."
Highlands plays host to East Central (Indiana). Game time is 7 p.m.
St. Henry 3, Highlands 0:
The visitors came to town and left with a 25-22, 25-15, 25-17 victory leaving the Ladybirds at 6-6 on the season and
Highlands sophomore Audrey Graves had 23 assists with Margot Seidel putting away nine kills and Casey Dunn adding eight kills. Dunn also had three aces and 13 digs with senior Gracie Schweitzer adding 11 digs. Ava Hockney had two blocks for the Ladybirds.
Highlands travels to Walton-Verona on Thursday. Game time is 7 p.m.