Badin High School’s leader, as usual, was senior Macy Harper.
Harper, a Xavier University soccer commit since before her sophomore season, tallied a goal and an assist Monday night as the Rams topped Fenwick 2-1 in a Greater Catholic League Coed Division opener at Hamilton’s Virgil Schwarm Stadium.
“That’s what kind of player she is, and it lifts the other kids. It makes the other kids around her better players,” Badin coach Todd Berkely said. “I can’t say enough about what Macy does for us. She really, really dictates the pace.”
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Harper — a holding or attacking center midfielder, depending on the situation — launched a shot past Falcons goalie Harper Brock with 22:21 left in the first half, then assisted on freshman Jada Pohlen’s goal about 11 minutes later.
Fenwick rallied with an Audrey Swisher goal off a corner kick by Lauren Boland with 15:22 left in the match, but couldn’t keep from falling to 0-2-1 under first-year coach Chris Clouse.
“It’s against Fenwick, so it’s always very difficult. We always get really hyped for it,” Harper said. “We work well together. I think we have a really long bench. Therefore, when subs come in, it doesn’t really drop off. We have a really good bond.”
Junior Mickayla Kowalski had three saves in goal and is one of three Rams committed to play at the next level — Kowalski and senior Jamie Lehker are both headed to Northern Kentucky.
Berkely said he expected an up-tempo GCLC match against the Falcons, and that’s exactly what he got. Badin opened the year with three Division I opponents, beating East Central (Ind.) while losing to St. Ursula and Anderson.
“We’ve played some fantastic competition and we’re 2-2, right about where I thought we would be,” Berkely said. “We don’t build our schedule to go undefeated like some teams do. We build the schedule so we can get better and better and better and peak at playoff time.”
The Rams trailed 5-0 against Anderson before a huge comeback came up a goal short. Berkely said there was plenty to be learned from the defeat.
“The first 40 minutes was probably some of the worst soccer that we have every played,” he said. “On the flip side, they righted the ship at halftime. They came back and put four goals on the board and never looked back.
“We scored the last goal with 29 seconds to go. That’s really what we wanted to do was get close enough to give ourselves a chance. We got a lot of positive commentary about the effort they put in at the end of that game from the Anderson parents and even part of the Anderson staff.”
Kowalski is “the foundation of the house,” according to Berkely, and Lehker made her first start of the season against Fenwick after recovering from a club injury.
Lehker boosted the back-line play that included quality efforts from senior Jenny Graber, junior Kelly Havens and freshman Julia Kinsel. Berkely said Harper has been a role model for midfielders like sophomore Paige Long and Pohlen.
Badin has won five straight district championships and lost to Tippecanoe in last year’s Division II regional semifinals. The Rams have secured three state titles (2005, 2013, 2014).
The Falcons, meanwhile, are seeking a return to success. They captured state crowns in 2008 and 2012, but they’re 16-37-5 since posting their last winning record in 2014.
“It’s really just the little things we’re working on … the communication, working out of the back,” Clouse said. “We’re trying to build it into something that’s going to last a long time instead of a short-term fix.”
Clouse, a longtime club coach who also’s coached at Chaminade Julienne and Miami Valley, liked Fenwick’s second-half surge against Badin.
“It was a tremendously better second half against a very good Badin team,” Clouse said. “The kids are doing a good job. You can’t argue with their work rate. I took over the program a couple months ago, so it’s a work in progress. But I’ve got 100 percent confidence in these kids that this is going to turn around.”
Boland, a center back, was among the Falcons’ standouts — Berkely gushed about her high-level performance. Clouse said center midfielder Mary Horvath also played well for Fenwick.
Asked to name the best characteristic of his team, Clouse replied, “Loyalty for sure. Loyalty to each other, to the coaching staff, to the program, to the school.”
The Falcons return to action at home Thursday against Batavia. The Rams visit Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy on Saturday.