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Breds Boys Soccer Coach Looking at the Positives
8/29/2012 - by Andy Foltz
Coach Mike McDonald knows a thing or two about seasons not starting according to script.

Last season, Newport Central Catholic boys’ soccer head coach Steve Bornhoffer left in the third week of summer practice to take an assistant coaching job at Northern Kentucky University. This elevated McDonald to the head-coaching job for NewCath. He responded by leading the Breds to a surprise 10th Region title.

This season, McDonald’s team is off to a 1-4 start while they look to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer, Austin Juniet. The losses include a season-opening rematch of the 10th Region final against Covington Catholic and a shootout loss to Bishop Brossart in the All “A” Classic.

“We play really good soccer at times, but it’s only at times,” said McDonald. “I think everybody is trying to do too much right now instead of working as a team.”

Seniors Graeham Heil and Nathan Grosser are trying to fill the leadership void left by Juniet’s graduation, but they have some help from the underclassmen as well. Grosser has played very well in the goal for the Breds with a young defense in front of him, and Heil is involved in all aspects of the game, moving from defense to midfield, taking corner kicks, anything the Breds need.

McDonald mentioned two of the underclassmen in particular that he is counting on as the Breds move forward this season. Junior forward Matt Tolle is being counted on to put pressure on the other team’s goalkeeper, and sophomore Jacob Hensley is manning the all-important sweeper role in the NewCath defense.

“Hensley is outstanding as a sophomore,” said coach McDonald. “He’s one of the best defenders at that age I’ve seen. He’s big, he’s strong, he wins the ball in the air. He’s very dangerous on corner kicks.”

Hensley’s maturation on defense has freed Heil to move into the midfield. “We want to bring our backs forward to help in offense,” coach McDonald said. “We’re not a bad team, right now we just can’t find the net.”

As with most coaches, McDonald, a former goalkeeper for Holy Cross, believes in building from a strong defense. “We’re doing different things,” he said. “In the past, NewCath has been a kickball kind of team, and we’re trying to change that.”

“I preach to challenge every 50/50 ball,” he added. The NewCath players have bought into that, attacking the ball with an energy that belies their record.

Another part of the Breds’ struggles early has been the level of their competition. They’ve played the top three ranked teams in Northern Kentucky in Ryle, Bishop Brossart and CovCath. Additionally, NewCath scrimmaged Lexington powers Dunbar and Henry Clay in the preseason.

”I think we can be a better prepared team by playing higher competition,” said coach McDonald. “It doesn’t count now. It counts in districts and in the region.”

In addition to gearing up another regional run – this time in the Ninth Region, as the soccer regions were realigned to be more consistent with their basketball counterparts this season – coach McDonald thinks the Breds have a bright future.

“My talent in JV and our freshmen class is very good,” he said. “This is probably the most overall talent since I’ve been at NewCath.”
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