|CovCath ends Highlands soccer season|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior Noah Sellers (left) plays the ball in a recent game. The Bluebirds fell to Covington Catholic, 2-1 on penalty kicks Tuesday in the 9th Region quarterfinals.|
But the two could not settle things in 80 minutes of regulation or two five-minute overtime periods. So the teams went to penalty kicks tied 1-1.
Covington Catholic (18-2-2 overall) edged Highlands (9-11-3), 4-3 in a best-of-five penalty kick round to hold on for the victory. This marked the third 9th Region quarterfinal exit for the Bluebirds in the past four years. Highlands won the region tournament two years ago on its way to the state quarterfinals.
The Bluebirds challenged the Colonels in both meetings this season. CovCath edged Highlands 1-0 scoring on a penalty kick in Park Hills on Sept. 22.
"Everything we worked for all season long, we bottled up and put it into (Tuesday)," said Matthew Winkler, Highlands Head Coach. "So the boys played well. It's a beautiful game, but it sucks to end in (penalty kicks). They played 90 minutes of great soccer and played great. They did everything asked of them."
The teams played physical, hustling hard after every 50/50 balls. CovCath had 14 fouls and a yellow card to 10 fouls and two yellow cards for Highlands.
CovCath outshot Highlands, 31-13 including 16-7 on goal. The Colonels also had 17 corner kicks to one for the Bluebirds.
But the Highlands defense came through. Paul Tulley had 14 saves at goalkeeper for Highlands and Sam Romes made four for the Colonels.
CovCath had a huge chance to score on a corner kick with 6:24 left in the first half. But the shot hit the crossbar and crawled over the net.
The two goals in the second half came within 30 seconds of each other. Jacob Litzler crossed a pass to Nick Jacobs for the CovCath score to put the Colonels up 1-0. But sophomore Nick Gish tied the game with 25:52 left in the game. His shot caromed off the crossbar but landed behind the line for the goal.
The penalty kicks started off well for both teams. Brady Gesenhues and Colton Wagoner hit their kicks but Litzler and Jacob Nurre matched them.
Unfortunately, the next kick sailed high for Highlands and Brice Day made his for CovCath to put the Colonels up 3-2 in penalty kicks.
But Gish hit his for Highlands before Michael Vogt made his attempt. Ben Seiter had to score to keep the Bluebirds alive. He shot one to the right, but Romes slid to his left to block the shot and end the game.
"You got better at situations through practice," Winkler said. "We worked on PKs last week hoping we wouldn't have to execute them, but you always prepare yourself for them."
The Bluebirds graduate nine seniors from the team in First-Team All-9th Region Gesenhues, Seiter, Ben Schweitzer, Ben Workman, Evan Ling, Jason Schreiber, Jasper Noble, Mark Baron and Noah Sellers. They helped Highlands to a 36th District championship last year.
"The soccer season is long," Winkler said. "There's a lot of dedication that goes into it. These boys dug deep and found the heart for each other. They played hard every minute they got out there. Anytime they could touch a ball and work hard, they did it. We're proud of them."
But Highlands has a nice core to build around next year. That includes Gish, Tulley and Wagoner.
36th District Semifinals:
Highlands 3, Bellevue 0:
The second-seeded Ladybirds (17-17) handled the Lady Tigers, 25-13, 25-13, 25-10 to advance to the championship game.
Highlands takes on Newport Central Catholic at 7 p.m.