By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
Catholic Fall Sports:
The Thoroughbred soccer squad had a successful campaign under first-year head coach Mike McDonald last year.
NewCath won the 19th District Tournament championship then upset Covington Catholic, 2-1 in the 10th Region title game for the Colonels’ only loss last year. CovCath finished the year 17-1-3. The Colonels were ranked tops in the state and 19th nationally.
The Breds then fell at Montgomery County, 1-0 in the first round of the state tournament before the Indians lost 4-1 to eventual state runner-up Ryle in the Elite Eight. NewCath finished the season 15-7-3 overall.
The Breds return 10 starters from that team. The only one not returning is forward Austin Juniet. Juniet finished with 30 goals and 20 assists last year and is now at Northern Kentucky University.
“We have some big shoes to fill in Juniet,” McDonald said. “This is the most talented team I’ve had head-to-toe. But it will take a team effort to put the ball in the net.”
NewCath returns senior Nathan Grosser at goalkeeper. The other captain is senior sweeper Graeham Hiel. McDonald is also counting on three defenders to help out this year. They are seniors Nathan Tackett, Kyle Simon and sophomore Jacob Hensley. Juniors Matt Towles, a three-year starting forward, and Conner Hanneken at center/midfielder could also contribute. Towles had seven goals and 10 assists last year.
NewCath moved to District 36, Region 9 this year. The Breds just have to face Highlands for the district championship since Dayton, Bellevue and Newport do not have teams.
NewCath opened the season with a 2-1 defeat to Covington Catholic. The Thoroughbreds play host to Pendleton County at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
The Lady Breds have consistently produced winning season under veteran head coach Kevin Turnick.
Last year was no exception when Newport Central Catholic finished 14-4 overall. The Lady Breds have produced 13 straight winning seasons since Turnick took over in 1999 and have finished ranked in the Top 5 in Northern Kentucky and Top 25 in the state.
The Lady Breds fell 1-0 to Highlands in the first round of District 37 Tournament play and graduated eight seniors for that team. That includes All-Northern Kentucky First-Teamers midfielder Aubrey Muench, defender Kate Owens, and forward Olivia Huber. Muench also finished First-Team All-State before taking her talents to Louisville. Huber and Owens took their playing careers to Thomas More College.
NewCath is counting on a number of players filling in those roles. This includes sophomore goalkeeper Erin Ackerson, filling in for the graduated Rachel Hardesty.
Turnick and staff have three seniors and three juniors they’re counting on to lead the team. The seniors are forward forward Christina Seibert, defender Courtney Hagedorn, midfielder Emily Weyer. The juniors are defender Allie Otten, midfielder Sam Bunzel, and defender Amanda Schabell.
NewCath may be young. But Turnick has a tough schedule to help the players get better. This includes the likes of Highlands, Notre Dame and St. Henry. Northern Kentucky owns five of the past eight state championships. Highlands and Notre Dame have two each with St. Henry winning it all in 2010. NewCath won All “A” state titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
“We’ve always said to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Turnick said. “There are a lot of good, quality programs in Northern Kentucky. You don’t have to go far to find good games.”
The Lady Breds open the season on Aug. 20 at Conner. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Lady Breds have won six straight Region 8 titles.
But the odds stack against them for a seventh because of youth and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association moved them into the Ninth Region against state-powers Notre Dame, St. Henry, and up-and-coming Ryle. Notre Dame beat NewCath in the state quarterfinals last year before falling to state champion Louisville Assumption in the state title game.
“It is going to be tough,” said Vicki Fleissner, Lady Bred head coach. “The Ninth Region is one of the top regions in the state. We have our work cut out for us. It is a rebuilding year.”
The Lady Breds graduated eight seniors. The five starting seniors from last year are playing sports in college. Jamie Kohls and Taylor Snyder are playing at nearby Northern Kentucky University with Lila Garner going to Army and Maggie O’Day taking her talents to Haverford College, an NCAA Division III school in Philadelphia. Also, Liz Gruenschlaeger will be throwing shot put and discus at the University of Kentucky.
NewCath has just one senior on the team and she happens to be the lone returning starter. That is libero Maria Froendoeff.
Most of the team happens to be juniors. The good news is basketball standout Nikki Kiernan is back after a year off as a hitter in NewCath’s 5-1 attack led by junior setter/outside hitter Alyssa Mayer. The Lady Breds hope to get quality play from junior outside hitters Whitney Fields and Abbie Lukens.
NewCath started 2-2 and 1-0 in district play earlier this week beating Bellevue before falling to Louisville Sacred Heart in three games. The Lady Breds lost to Louisville Mercy over the weekend before beating Lloyd Memorial on Tuesday. They face St. Henry in the All “A” Classic at 6 p.m. tonight.