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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Highlands Soccer Beats Cov Cath in Park Hills

Bluebirds Make 1-0 Lead Stand Against Colonels

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Colin Pieper (10) gets in position in the match at Covington Catholic on Tuesday.

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For games like this, it is hard not to think about any of the rivalry buzzwords.

But another Highlands, Cov Cath game lived up to that rivalry hype as the visiting Highlands Bluebirds boys soccer team (8-2-1 overall) outlasted the host Covington Catholic Colonels (1-5-5) by a 1-0 score at Wooten Field in Park Hills. Highlands won by the same score there two years ago.

2000 Memorial Parkway. 

"When you're playing at a rivalry school, we shouldn't expect it to take many goals. We were pretty proud of how we defended,"
said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "We had a string of games there where we were giving them up all the time. But we've really kind of focused on how we're defending as a whole team not just the back four. They're doing a much better job too. But I think the guys up front are defending much more intelligently. We're committing at the right times and we're saving some gas at the right times, too."

The Bluebirds had great shots to put more balls in the back of the net. But Covington Catholic senior goalkeeper Charles Nolting had an excellent game recording an astounding 11 saves.

"(CovCath) has played some pretty good teams," said Peyton Helminiak, Highlands junior midfielder. "We took it to them. (Senior) Cole Lorenzen is the one who really pushed us this game because last year, we had a tough 4-0 loss against them (at Tower Park). We really wanted to go after them."

Highlands moved to 6-0 against 9th Region opponents and 7-0 in games played during the week. The Bluebirds won at Lexington Henry Clay, 2-0 three days ago for their first Saturday win in four tries.

"That's back-to-back shutouts against a 2019 state champion and a perennial contender in Henry Clay and CovCath respectively," Niedert said. "That says a lot about how we're coming along. If it weren't for their keeper's saves, this game could have been 3-0, 4-0 us. I thought we had a pretty dominant second half in particular and that's all we can ask from our guys in a game like this. Even when it's not going our way in terms of the shots not falling, we weren't giving up shots either."

Highlands recorded 20 shots with 13 on goal to five shots with just two on goal for the Colonels. Highlands junior goalkeeper Connor Mathis made one save in the first half.

But sophomore Jack Wilson had to make his lone save late in the game. The Colonels drew a penalty to the right of the box. Wilson stopped the shot. But the one official was not ready. On the replay, CovCath directed it to the middle and Wilson stopped it.

"It was pretty important for us to quickly reset," Wilson said. "Because they moved the ball, I kind of had to reset my wall. But we were able to get it out and make the stop that we needed to."

The lone goal of the game came with 27 minutes, 44 seconds left in the first half on one of six Highlands corner kicks. Senior defender/midfielder Joel Kendall placed one in the box and sophomore forward/midfielder Chad Gesenhues headed it into the net. Gesenhues has five goals on the season and Kendall has four assists.

"There's another place where we've been improving,"
Niedert said. "Even in the professional game, guys have these set pieces well ironed out. It tends to be the difference in the big games. We've emphasized that. We've tried to make sure we're a little bit stronger in knowing our roles. We have a few tricks up our sleeves. We ultimately trust the guys to make the right decisions and they make some pretty good decisions."

Gesenhues moved into double-digit points on the season with the goal tying senior forward/midfielder Jordan Frisk for second on the team in goals. Gesenhues also has an assist for 11 points. Junior forward Colin Pieper has a team-high six goals and an assist for 13 points. Frisk has five goals and a team-high four assists for a team-high 14 points this season.

The Bluebirds had 10 fouls to eight for the Colonels and no offsides calls. CovCath had one offsides whistle and three corner kicks. Neither team received any yellow or red cards.

The Bluebirds had a free kick with 19:53 left in the first half. But CovCath formed a wall to deflect Lorenzen's kick high. Kendall placed a corner kick into the box with 7:38 left in the game. But Nolting made a great save on it.

The lone CovCath win has come Aug. 19 at St. Henry by a 3-1 score. The Colonels have played three Ohio teams losing 2-0 to Cincinnati Moeller of the Greater Catholic League South at home on Aug. 24 and tying Greater Catholic League Co-Ed teams Cincinnati McNicholas at home (2-2 on Sept. 2) and Dayton Carroll on the road (3-3 on Aug. 31). The blue Colonels also have scoreless ties against Cooper and Conner.

Highlands has won six of the last seven meetings against CovCath. That includes postseason wins three straight years between 2017 and 2019 and the 9th Region championship games in 2018 and 2019.

Highlands faces two Ohio teams next. The Bluebirds travel to the east side of Cincinnati to face the Summit Country Day Silver Knights (2-0-2) of the Miami Valley Conference Scarlet Division. Game time is 6:30 p.m.

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