Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
Many members of the Fort Thomas community came together at Tower Park on Tuesday to witness a historic event.
They dedicated the new artificial turf soccer field. Local orthodontist Mark Farley led the funding of $1.1 million into the complex and $900,000 into the artificial turf. The money also went into upgrading the track areas around the field. The project will be financed over a period of 10 years.
Farley spoke along with Fort Thomas Independent Schools Superintendent Gene Kirschner, Highlands High Principal Brian Robinson and Fort Thomas Board of Education Chairperson Karen Allen. Highlands women’s soccer head coach Tommy Kearns and men’s soccer head coach Matthew Winkler also introduced the teams.
Farley said this project will not only impact the teams at Highlands but players at schools like Newport Central Catholic High, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Therese schools and Moyer, Woodfill and Johnson Elementary schools. The field is a lot more tolerant of the weather so it can be used a lot more year-round.
“We can rely more on the field and know how to use it,” said Jordan Jarvis, Highlands junior. “We were shaky last year. We did not know if we’d practice or have a game. We can have more workouts in the winter as a team.”
The Highlands women’s team had its first practice on the new field Tuesday. The Bluebirds beat Ryle, 1-0 on the road Monday to open the season. Both teams had been practicing on the football field in weeks prior to the season.
“They’ve been extremely excited,” Kearns said. “They’ve watched the last month or two as they’ve been laying the surface. They’ve been dying to get up here and play on it. It is a beautiful facility that will last us decades.”
The players noticed some immediate differences to this field as opposed to the old grass field. The women’s team had several cancellations last year because rain stayed on the field a long time.
“It is a lot smoother and it is easier to control the passes and the ball,” said Alyssa Farley, Highlands junior midfielder. “It is also easier to move around the defenders you play against so you can have better opportunities to score.”
Winkler said the majority of Highlands’ opponents have turf fields. Although teams like St. Henry, Covington Holy Cross and Scott still have grass fields.
“I think they’ve adjusted really well,” said Matthew Winkler, Highlands head coach. “They’re super excited to be out here. We have to thank the community and everyone involved to give us the opportunity to play on a surface like this. It’s only going to further develop our program. It allows the kids to develop to their fullest potential.”
Highlands sophomore midfielder Allyson Bridewell noticed a difference with handling the ball on an artificial field.
“On a grass field, it is so bumpy,” Bridewell said. “It is easier to figure out the weight of the ball. Most fields you play on these days are turf fields so instead of going back and forth from turf to grass fields, you figure out how to work with the ball and become better with your touches.”
The Highlands men opened up the season Tuesday with a 9-0 domination of Covington Holmes. Seven different Bluebirds scored in the win.
Devin Dupont and Jordan scored two goals each for the Bluebirds. Michael Cirulli, Colin Dean, Chris Garbig, Logan Groneck, and Ethan Schmits had one goal a piece. Andrew Barnes, Petr Carter, Cole Davis-Roberts, Dean, Jarvis and Vadim Lightner had one assist each.
Nick Breslin and Nathan Schutte split halves at goal. Schutte made two saves in the second half.
Highlands outshot Holmes, 23-2. Whitley Slover made 14 saves for the Bulldogs.
“We don’t take any team for granted. We prepared for Holmes the same way we would Covington Catholic,” Winkler said. “You never know what a team is going to bring to the field that day. We did take an early lead. It gave us an opportunity to work on some of our fundamentals for the season.”
Highlands scored five goals in the first half and never looked back.
“We felt in control the whole game,” Cirulli said. “At halftime, the coaches told us to stay confident and make sure they don’t get a breakaway because they have some players who can take you one-on-one if they get loose. We stayed poised and played the best we could.”
Highlands continues action Thursday at St. Henry. Game time is 8 p.m.