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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ladybirds take down top-ranked team in state

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands freshman Ali Gessner (13) makes her move in a recent game. Gessner leads the 9-0-1 Ladybirds with 22 points on nine goals and four assists.
Head Coach Brian Wiefering admits the strategy sometimes backfires.

But it didn't in the first game of the Lexington Catholic Cup on Monday. Instead, the third-ranked Highlands Ladybirds soccer team (9-0-1 overall) made the game's only goal hold up for a huge 1-0 victory over the top-ranked Louisville Sacred Heart Valkyries (7-2-1).

"They've come along so well," Wiefering said. "We obviously have a great group of technical players that come from different club teams. To be able to put them together as a group and work this hard as a group and be as positive as a group even when things don't go our way, that's a goal you hope to hit by the end of the season. They've come together pretty early in the season. It's obvious now they'll have a target on their back and they're going to have to continue to get better."

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Sacred Heart outshot Highlands, 6-5. Ladybird junior goalkeeper Olivia McQueary saved all six shots as the Ladybirds recorded their ninth shutout of the season. Highlands has outscored the opposition, 40-1 on the season.

Senior Sydney Ossege scored the game's lone goal in the first half. That marked her sixth goal of the season. She also has six assists on the season for a total of 18 points.

"That was one of the fastest teams we've played," Wiefering said. "They were like Mount Notre Dame (Ohio, who tied Highlands 1-1 last week). They actually possessed the ball better. It still wasn't where it needed to be. But they actually improved. To be able to build on that is going to be important."

Sacred Heart had outscored the opposition, 37-1 prior to its first loss of the season Saturday with six shutouts including a 0-0 tie against West Jessamine. The Valkyries traveled to Evansville (Indiana) to face Reitz Memorial and came away with a 3-0 defeat.

Sacred Heart's leading goal-scorer is junior Cassie Amshoff with 12. The Valkyries have seen 13 different players score while the Ladybirds have seen 12 put the ball in the the goal.

"We all had to make sure we could get back and cover when needed," said Sophie Steppe, Highlands junior defender. "All I ever think about (in one-one-one situations) is just to get the ball out whether that means delaying her (moves) so someone else can get it or I can get it. It doesn't really matter who it is."

Highlands had not beaten Sacred Heart since a 1-0 victory in the 2006 state championship game. In between, the Valkyries won five in a row by a 15-0 count. Sacred Heart handed Highlands its only regular season loss in 2007 (2-0) before beating the Ladybirds, 2-0 in the 2008 title game to claim its second of three straight state championships.

The two have met four times in the Lexington Catholic Cup since 2012. Sacred Heart blanked Highlands, 8-0 in the seventh-place game in 2012, then in the championship game in 2013 by a 2-0 count.

The Valkyries also beat the Ladybirds, 1-0 on their way to the Lexington Catholic Cup championship last year in the semifinals before winning their fifth state championship. Those five titles are second in the state behind only South Oldham's seven crowns.

Highlands continues in the Lexington Catholic Cup on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against Louisville DuPont Manual (6-2).

Highlands 3, Dayton 0:

The Ladybirds improved to 9-9 on the season with its 3-0 win (25-10, 25-17, 25-13) over the Dayton Lady Devils. Highlands moved to 4-6 in 9th Region action.

Freshman Ava Hockney recorded a career-high 12 kills and sophomore Margot Seidel added seven. Junior Gracie Schweitzer led the defensive charge for the Ladybirds with 11 digs.

Highlands travels to Holmes on Tuesday. Game time is 7 p.m.

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