|Broering Connection Extends Highlands Season|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. The Highlands Bluebirds girls soccer team is headed to the 9th Region finals after a thrilling 1-0 win over Dixie Heights in overtime.|
Highlands (16-3-5 overall) and Dixie Heights (13-10-1) had to go to overtime to decide the 9th Region semifinals in a scoreless affair. But with 1:14 left in the first five-minute extra frame, senior Maria Broering lobbed the corner kick to sophomore sister Faith Broering for the score to give Highlands a 1-0 victory at St. Henry.
The win puts Highlands in the 9th Region championship game back at St. Henry on Saturday at 1 p.m. The opponent is the familiar arch-rival Notre Dame Pandas (17-3-4).
The corner kicks did not come as easy on the grass field at St. Henry. The rain from the previous night made the field softer, muddy and uneven. But Maria Broering nailed home her 10th assist of the season to end the game.
"During the game, I didn't have the best corner kicks," Maria Broering said. "I was having trouble putting (the ball) where I wanted earlier in the game so as I walked over to the corner, I put the ball down, closed my eyes and just said, 'Please God. Let this be good.' I ran up and I kicked it. The next few seconds were just a blur. Then I saw the ball go in the back of the net off the header. It was pure joy, excitement and relief. It was amazing."
That marked the 10th goal of the year for Faith Broering. She hit double-digits in goals along with sophomore teammate Chloe Bramble (14) and Maria Broering (12).
"It was great. My sister and I definitely have a good connection," Faith Broering said. "We go to the field and practice finishing all the time. It was a great ball in and I was able to finish it."
Highlands Head Coach Alex Dean said he has faith in the players on penalty kicks. But coaches and players like to finish games before that point. Highlands lost to St. Henry on penalty kicks in the same round two years ago.
"(Penalty kicks) are obviously a 50/50 chance. That can go a crazy amount of ways," Dean said. "That was nice being able to finish the game kind of on our own in the field of play. If it comes to PKs on Saturday or in the future, we're ready to go. We played well. But we have to come out with a little more (fight) on Saturday."
Highlands had 21 shots including 12 on goal to nine shots for Dixie Heights. Highlands senior goalkeeper Rylee Thomas made eight saves.
The Bluebirds handled the Lady Colonels, 3-0 in Crestview Hills on Sept. 25. Highlands is 10-1-1 against region opponents.
"They sat back a little bit - not as much as we saw on Monday," Dean said. "We were kind of expecting something similar. They're coaching staff is very, very intelligent on their strategies so big props to them for making it difficult on us. We had a couple close ones that we didn't finish. But we didn't give up. We kept on fighting."
Highlands and Notre Dame will meet for the third time Saturday. The teams tied at Tower Park (1-1) on Aug. 19 to open the season before the Pandas won 3-2 in the title game of the Lexington Catholic Challenge Cup on Sept. 14. The Pandas dominated the Ryle Lady Raiders, 7-0 in the region semifinals.
"(Highlands Assistant) Coach (Olivia) Huber was there. Notre Dame does things different in the postseason and they had Ryle just terrified," Dean said. "We have our own little thing that we do that we're going to bring for Saturday. It should be a close game. It's going to come down to something like (Wednesday). Whoever wants it more is going to get it and we have to make sure our girls are the ones who want it more. It will be a very fun game to watch. We'll make sure we give it all we got."
This will mark the third time in four years the teams will meet for the region championship. Highlands beat Notre Dame, 1-0 in the title game last year at Ryle. In 2016, the Pandas won by that same score in the region title game at Tower Park.