By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
Both soccer teams knew they were headed to the 9th Region Tournament.
It was just a matter of pride and momentum unlike previous years in the old 19th District with Bishop Brossart and Campbell County.
The Newport Central Catholic Lady Breds came away with both in a 2-0 victory at Tower Park on Thursday. NewCath (12-5-1 overall) won its first district championship since 2005 and snapped a run of six consecutive district titles for the Ladybirds (3-10-3). Heavy thunder and lightning forced the cancellation of the regular season meeting for the two squads.
The Lady Breds had not been to the regional tournament since 2009. They came into the 19th District Tournament as the top seeds last year, but Highlands won the semifinal contest 1-0 before losing 4-1 to eventual state champion Notre Dame in the 10th Region title game.
The Lady Breds created more chances outshooting the Ladybirds, 16-5, including 6-2 on goal. NewCath also had 10 free kicks to three for Highlands.
“I have been stressing since we’ve been off for the last week playing 80 minutes,” said Kevin Turnick, NewCath head coach. “You’re going to make mistakes in those 80 minutes. But it’s about getting to that next play, that next ball that makes it count. If you make a mistake, you don’t drop your head. You came back in. We’ve been working all week on trying to get behind the defense better. I would have liked to have more goals to make things easier. But that’s the way this game goes.”
NewCath ran a 4-5-1 (defender-midfielder-forward) attack. Highlands ran a 4-4-2.
The game stayed scoreless until 10:21 remained in the first half. Chandler Cain put the Lady Breds up for good with the goal.
“We were pretty frantic so I think (the goal) helped us calm down,” Cain said. “It’s a matter of practicing and knowing what you’re doing. I’m so proud of my team and everything we’ve accomplished.”
Highlands had a chance to tie the game with 27:41 left in the second half. Brooklynn Rivers had a wide-open net, but the shot went wide right.
“(Rivers) is a very good player,” Turnick said. “I’ve had the chance to watch her a couple times before playing here. She’s good with the ball at her feet. We didn’t want to give her a lot of scoring chances. We worked on not allowing players to turn the ball with their feet and do a lot of things.”
The Lady Breds added an insurance goal in the second half. Sam Bunzel drove into the scoring box and drew a foul to earn a penalty kick. She kicked it to the right for the score.
“I thought we control the first 20 minutes of the game. We came out strong in the second half,” said Tommy Kearns, Highlands head coach. “I thought the penalty kick was pretty soft. But it didn’t decide the game. We didn’t create enough chances in the second half. But it definitely changed the second half.”
NewCath sophomore goalkeeper Erin Ackerson saved both Highlands shots on goal. That marked the fifth shutout of the year for the Lady Breds.
“Our defense has been really strong this year,” said Ansley Davenport, NewCath freshman defender. “We try to talk a lot and communicate with each other. If one misses a step, another (teammate) gets back.”
Jesse Daley played the entire game at goalkeeper for the Ladybirds. She recorded four saves.
Christina Seibert received the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award for NewCath. Davenport and Bunzel also made the all-tournament squad for the Lady Breds. Rivers and Ally Laycock made the all-tournament team for the Ladybirds.
The regional tournament takes place at Ryle next week. In district championship games Wednesday, Ryle beat Conner, 2-0 in the 33rd title game, Dixie Heights knocked off St. Henry, 2-0 in the 34th title game and Notre Dame downed Covington Holy Cross, 4-0 in the 35th championship.