|Bluebirds Back in Tournament Title Game|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior defender Jade Rehberger prepares to take a corner kick in a recent game.|
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The Highlands Bluebirds girls soccer team (8-2 overall) finds itself in the title game of the Lexington Catholic Lady Knights Challenge Cup hoping the third time is the charm.
Highlands earned its way back to the title game with a convincing 3-0 win over the Louisville Assumption Rockets (8-4-1) in the second round of the winner's bracket. The Bluebirds have lost in the last two tournament championship games including a 3-2 loss on kicks from the mark against Lexington Lafayette last year.
"I think the first 20 minutes, we definitely had a very prescribed game plan that we were going to use," said Chris Norris, Highlands Head Coach. "I think we executed well to get the 2-0 lead. Then Assumption made some tactical changes, kind of put us on our heels a little bit. Our defense had to reorganize to make sure the passing lanes were shut down."
Highlands will play for that elusive crown on Saturday at 7 p.m. The opponent will be the winner of the late Thursday contest between Notre Dame (13-0) or Louisville DuPont Manual (5-3). This marked the second shut-out of the year for the Bluebirds.
This marked the second win over the Rockets. The Bluebirds downed host Assumption, 4-2 on Aug. 21.
Assumption had 18 shots on goal to seven. But senior goalkeeper Meg Gessner stopped all 11 shots in the first half and senior goalkeeper Hailey Parks stopped all seven in the second half.
"They were taking a lot of shots. But most of their shots were coming from 30 yards out-plus," Norris said. "So a lot of their shots were on target. But they weren't necessarily dangerous. I thought we were handle everything they were throwing at us for the most part. I thought the girls really stepped up and did a fantastic job."
Highlands won a good number of balls near midfield allowing the midfielders to pass the ball to the forwards. Assumption had 10 fouls to seven for Highlands. The Bluebirds committed the game's long yellow card.
"I felt like we did a lot better than we have been," said Ava Meyer, Highlands sophomore midfielder. "But I still feel like we need to work on a lot of the 50/50 balls in the middle. You just have to think that you want the ball more than (opponents) and that you need to get the first ball in the air, not the second ball."
The first goal came 11 minutes into the first half. Sophomore forward Laney Smith scored her 10th goal of the season.
The second goal came with 24 minutes left in the first half to put Highlands up 2-0 at halftime. Senior forward Chloe Bramble found senior defender Jade Rehberger on a cross. Rehberger has two goals and Bramble six assists on the season.
The Bluebirds added another goal just 100 seconds into the second half to make the final score when Smith scored her second goal of the game and 11th on the season. Smith also has team-highs of seven assists and 29 points on the season.
Since last winning the cup crown in 2006, Highlands has gone back to the title game four times. The Bluebirds also made the championship game in 2013 and 2016.
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