Prep girls soccer: Rockets continue mastery of Badin, win GCLC title

Once again, Badin High School’s girls soccer team missed an opportunity to be the Greater Catholic League Coed Central Division champion.

And once again, the Rams would be happy to grab some postseason hardware instead.

Badin is a perennial tournament contender and three-time state champion, but the search for its first league title since 2006 continues after host McNicholas clinched its 10th straight Central crown Wednesday with a 1-0 Senior Night victory at Penn Station Stadium.

“It’s just one of those things when you have Division II and Division III built in together in a league,” Rams coach Todd Berkely said. “I want to get very far in the playoffs. That is our goal every year. The regular season is just trial and error, working through some things, building some dimensional play and getting ourselves ready for that postseason.”

The Rockets (7-5-4 overall, 5-1 in the GCLC) have never failed to win the Central championship. They haven’t lost to Badin since 2007.

The Rams (9-4-2, 4-1-1) shared the Girls Greater Cincinnati League Grey Division title with Alter in 2006. Badin won Division III state crowns in 2013 and 2014, though BHS has been bumped up to Division II this year.

“We wanted this so bad,” Rams forward Gabi Reising said. “I’m a sophomore, but by the time I’m a senior, I’m definitely going to get it.”

Abby Wesselkamper gave McNick its lone goal Wednesday off an assist from Caroline Zahumensky with 7:34 left in the first half.

Maddie Kouche manned the Rockets’ goal in the first half. Abby Sankey finished the shutout, though Kouche did play briefly after the break while Sankey took care of an injury.

Wesselkamper, Zahumensky, Kouche and Sankey are all sophomores.

“Badin’s always a tough game, regardless of the time of year,” McNick coach Ben Kirkpatrick said. “Being the last game of the season, it’s a little awkward. We’re both looking ahead toward the tournament, but we both knew this result meant the league, so I knew they were going to play it pretty tight and it was going to be a physical game.

“It’s great that we have a rival like them in our league that tests us every year. We just seem to have their number right now. It’s a confidence thing. We go in believing that we’re going to win every game, whether it’s Badin or Alter or whoever it is.”

The Rockets lost 10 seniors from last year’s squad, including All-American Sophie Gorman.

“It’s tough to lose that amount of players and that amount of contributions, but we’ve been rebuilding,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve got a young team, and we’ve told them for the last couple weeks that the games have been getting better, even if the results haven’t always been there. It’s about building momentum going into the tournament.”

Sophomore Mickayla Kowalski has been strong in goal for the Rams all season, but she couldn’t keep Wesselkamper from scoring.

“We’ve been working all year long on finishing the play and making those second and third runs off the ball,” Kirkpatrick said. “So when the ball got played in, Abby saw the spacing behind the back line and took a chance that it was going to get flicked on for her, and she was able to get a nice little touch over the goalie. It was a great finish and something I was really happy to see finally come to fruition.”

Berkely had no problem with Kowalski’s performance. He also liked the offensive thrust provided by Reising, along with the midfield play of Maddie Maccio, Lexi Berkely and Jamie Lehker.

“I thought we pressed when I got numbers forward,” said Todd Berkely, noting that his team squandered some scoring opportunities on corner kicks. “I switched some positions and put the attacking players in a more lucrative spot on the field.

“Defensively, we were solid. I thought our midfield did a good job of holding their positions and keeping them out of the danger areas for the most part. I didn’t think they had too many particularly dangerous shots. They were opportunistic on the one goal that they got, which is a credit to them. I thought they did a great job of attacking us.

“I thought we played fairly well today. We played solid for 80 minutes. We weren’t dropping off, which was nice.”

Macy Harper drilled a shot that Sankey stopped with about two minutes remaining, and that was pretty much the clinching play for McNick.

“We didn’t really have any bad body language when we got behind,” Reising said. “We had our halftime talk and we had a lot of energy and we were like, ‘Yes, we can do this.’ We had a lot of effort going toward the goal, especially in the second half.

“I’m disappointed that we lost, but I’m proud of my girls. I think we played pretty great.”

The Rockets’ regular season is over. The Rams’ finale will be at Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium on Saturday against Mariemont at 5 p.m.

And then McNick and Badin might meet again in the Division II tournament.

If the fifth-seeded Rockets can beat either No. 8 Taylor or No. 12 Wyoming and the second-seeded Rams can beat either No. 11 New Richmond or No. 18 Goshen on Oct. 19, they’ll square off for a sectional championship Oct. 23 at Winton Woods.

“If we do what we need to do in our first playoff game, then we’ll see how it goes,” Berkely said. “I would look forward to the matchup, no question about it. I’m sure the girls would look forward to the matchup.”

Said Kirkpatrick, “I’m sure Todd’s going to have some tricks up his sleeve if we both get there. We’ll see what they have.”

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