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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Highlands Girls Soccer Gives Valiant Effort in 9th Region Championship Loss

Bluebirds Have Made it to Four Straight Region Championship Games

Highlands senior midfielder Faith Broering earned the 9th Region Offensive Most Valuable Player of the year and a spot on the all-tournament team along with fellow seniors Jade Rehberger and Chloe Bramble.

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The final score does not reflect the intensity and effort the Highlands Bluebirds girls soccer team (14-5-1 overall) played with Saturday in the 9th Region title game.

In a similar scenario in the championship game of the Lexington Catholic Lady Knights Cup Challenge Cup on Sept. 18, Highlands trailed the state championship favorite Notre Dame Pandas (24-0-1) just 1-0 at halftime. But the Pandas pulled away with three goals in the final 15 minutes, 56 seconds of the game for a 4-0 victory at Boone County.

"They just have so many weapons across the board," said Chris Norris, Highlands Head Coach. "They've got great size, great speed, great strength. They just run all over the place and their passes always go to feet. They're just a really, really strong team. I think they played really well. I thought we pressured them very, very well into making some mistakes. We just couldn't one past their defense into the goal. If you can't score then you open up too many spots on defense. It allows them to capitalize on mistakes."

Highlands lost both games to Notre Dame during the regular season by 3-0 scores. But the Pandas have outscored opponents, 105-3 on the season.

This marked the first time Highlands did not win the 9th Region since 2017. The Bluebirds finished state runner-up in 2018 and 2019 before losing 1-0 on kicks from the mark in the first round of the state tournament last year to eventual state runner-up Lexington Catholic.

The Bluebirds graduate 10 seniors from this team. Forward Chloe Bramble has seen varsity minutes starting her freshman year. Midfielder Faith Broering, defender Jade Rehberger and forward Macy Hedenberg saw varsity minutes since their sophomore years. Senior goalkeeper Meg Gessner split halves there last year. Defender Hailey Barton and goalkeeper Hailey Parks saw some action as juniors and stepped into bigger roles this year. Midfielders Julia Heck, Lucy New and forward Lindsay Thompson were new to the Highlands varsity this year. 

New and Thompson played soccer in middle school before returning this year. Bramble, Broering and Rehberger made the all-tournament team. Broering earned the region's Offensive Most Valuable Player honors.

"I can't express in words how proud I am of our senior class and all the teams we've had in the past couple of years," Rehberger said. "I think every year, we've shown progress from the beginning of the season until the end and that's what matters."

The seniors also helped Highlands to another 36th District Tournament championship. The Bluebirds have won six in a row.

"If you look at their growth, I can't wait to see them when they get to their college teams," Norris said. "They've just been absolutely fantastic leaders. They've been fantastic players. They improved all through the season. I hope they learned something this year about what it takes to get to the next step. It's rather unfortunate they didn't get that state trophy during their careers."

Notre Dame recorded 14 shots including 11 on goal to six shots with one on goal for Highlands. Senior goalkeeper Meg Gessner recorded six saves to keep Highlands in the game early before Parks took over late in the game. Senior Abby Breeze recorded one save.

Highlands recorded three offsides calls, nine fouls, one corner kick and one yellow card. Notre Dame had seven fouls, one offsides call and four corner kicks.

Sophomore Carlyn Tranter scored the only goal the Pandas needed to win the game with 26 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first half. The Pandas put the speedy senior Macie Feldman in the back to preserve the lead in the second half. Senior Marina Ruthsatz, junior Kennedy Clark and Feldman scored the goals in the final 15:56 of the game to let the Pandas pull away.

The Pandas graduate 14 seniors from this team. They own state championships in 2004, 2011 and 2013 under former Head Coach Sara McSorley, who attended the game Saturday.

The Bluebirds return a good core to work with next year starting up top with sophomore forwards Laney Smith, Clare Cavacini, Ava Lawhorn, junior Anna Melson then sophomore Ava Meyer and junior Payton Enslen at midfielder. Junior Bianca Hemsath returns at defender after not playing most of the season. Two freshmen received valuable time at defender in Kate Fausz and Kendall Graves. Norris listed the two big needs for next season are filling in roles the seniors leave behind such as Broering's passing ability and at goalkeeper.

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