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Ryle boys’ soccer team claims 9th Region championship with 3-1 win over Highlands

By Evan Merrill
NKyTribune reporter

Ryle boys’ soccer players finally accomplished a goal they’ve had for the past three seasons — winning a 9th Region championship — by defeating Highlands, 3-1, in the regional final on Saturday afternoon at Tower Park in Ft. Thomas.

The previous two seasons Ryle lost to Covington Catholic in the title match. With the Colonels not in their way this time, the Raiders claimed their first 9th Region championship since 2011.

Ryle (21-2-2) will play 11th Region champion Lexington Catholic (17-6-2) in the sectional round of the state tournament at 7 p.m. Monday in Lexington.

“It feels great for the guys,” Ryle coach Stephen Collins said. “Some of these guys have been here (for three years), they finally got over the hump and can enjoy the rest of the experience. I think it’s really great and we played really well, which is better.”

Players and coaches on the Ryle boys’ soccer team pose for photos with their 9th Region championship trophy. (Photo by Evan Merrill)

The Raiders came out of the gate aggressive in the regional final, scoring in the 14th minute off the foot of senior Austin Brownell, a member of the all-tournament team.

The Bluebirds failed to muster any offensive stability as Ryle dominated the pace of play and possession in the first half.

“We’ve preached defense, we say you win with defense and they’ve really bought into it,” Collins said. “It’s really neat to see them succeed and do so well. Offensively, it was the possession, we were able to possess early and get some attack.”

Ryle goalkeeper James Spindley was named most valuable player in the 9th Region tournament. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

Ryle tacked on another goal in the 27th minute from junior Chris Prastana and led 2-0 at halftime. The Raiders extended their lead in the 47th minute on a goal by junior Mitchell Wartman.

Two minutes later, Highlands finally got on the board off a penalty kick by all-tournament team member Carter Holmes. But Ryle’s defense held the Bluebirds at bay for the remainder of the second half, despite several opportunities down the stretch.

Ryle goalkeeper James Spindley was named the tournament’s most valuable player with midfielders Aiden Jordan and Andrew Roe and Brownell joining him on the all-tournament team.

Ryle lost to Highlands, 2-0, during he last week of the regular season. The Raiders are now riding a six-match winning streak into the state tournament.

“My staff and I just preach, ‘It’s not how you do at the beginning of the year, it’s how you play at the end of the year,” Collins said. “That’s kind of how we coached. We tried to get these guys to pick it up in the middle of September and we’ve been very fortunate. They bought in, we’re playing well, we have some great talent.”

Campbell County won the 10th Region boys’ soccer title and hosts Mercer County in a sectional playoff game at 7 p.m. Monday. The girls’ state tournament begins on Tuesday with eight sectional games that include 9th Region champ Notre Dame at Lexington Catholic at 7 p.m. and 8th Region champ Simon Kenton at North Bullitt at 7 p.m.

Ryle — James Spindley (MVP), Aidan Jordan, Austin Brownell, Andrew Roe. Highlands — Carter Holmes, Will Burnham, Elias Ordonez. CovCath — Noah Wulfeck, Thomas Cody. St. Henry — Josh Bisbee, Jake Maher. Cooper — Max Zorn. NewCath — Logan Muck. Holy Cross — Zach Combs. Dixie Heights — Joel Lian.


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