Fort Thomas has a monopoly on the area’s top high school goalkeepers, with two senior boys living less than two miles apart who didn’t realize how much they had in common until meeting two years ago at a keeper training camp in Blue Ash.
Newport Central Catholic’s Paul Grosser and Highlands’ Nick Breslin are returning Northern Kentucky Soccer Coaches Association all-stars. Grosser was a first-team pick. Breslin was named third-team after helping lead the Bluebirds to the Ninth Region tournament championship.
Grosser, a 6-foot-4 second-year starter, is one of six soccer-playing brothers, all of whom played at NewCath, four as goalkeepers. He followed Nathan Grosser between the posts.
Breslin’s brother, Kevin Breslin, played before him at Highlands. The 6-1 Nick Breslin started as a sophomore and shared keeper duties last season. This year, he’s the man.
“We had some mutual friends on some club teams,” Grosser said. “Then we met at training. He said he was Nick Breslin from Highlands. I was like, oh. But we became pals.”
Highlands and NewCath are fierce rivals who went back and forth with each other last season in a series of one-goal matches. The Bluebirds beat the Thoroughbreds, 1-0 in overtime in the regional final. They didn’t allow a goal in three tournament matches, thanks in large part to Breslin, who surrendered an average of 1.1 goals per game during the season. Highlands posted 10 shutouts and was unscored upon in four straight before losing to Paul Laurence Dunbar, 3-1, in the second round of the state tournament.
NewCath beat Highlands 2-1 in the 36th District final. The ‘Breds recorded six shutouts last season and allowed four goals in the last six matches. Grosser gave up an average of 1.7 goals.
Highlands won last year’s opener, 2-1. They meet again at 8 p.m. Sept. 11 at Highlands.
Both keepers are warning each others’ squad to stay out of the 6-yard box in the showdown.
“That’s my work place. Stay out. I don’t even like my own players in the box; I bump them out,” Breslin said.
Highlands coach Matthew Winkler said his keeper is a special breed.
“To be a goalie, you have to be a little bit nuts,” the coach said. “At some point, it’s all on you. Nick took up the position early. He stuck with it, learned to see the field and feel the angles. We’ve been working hard with him on positioning and shot-blocking. He’s a potential all-state guy.”
Highlands also will need to watch it in the box when they take on the ‘Breds.
“If they come down in there, they know they’re going to get hit,” NewCath coach Michael McDonald said. “And they know how big Paul is.”
Off the field, the coaches, both of whom played the position, say their respective keepers are gentlemen, and scholars.
Grosser ranks second in his class with a 5.50 weighted grade-point average. “There’s not a dumb cell in his body,” McDonald said.
“It’s not just him. Every brother is a brain. Watching Nathan and Paul in the nets, it’s an art form for them,” said Breslin, also a top student.
“I missed the keeper training this year and ran into Nick, and he said he missed me,” Grosser said. “He’s pretty cool. But, on the field, we’re both trying to win.”
Both keepers have cancer survivors in their family. Breslin’s mother is back to ringing her bell every time her son makes a save. Grosser’s brother, Matt, survived brain cancer after being diagnosed as a child.
“I want to show my mom there’s a lot to look forward to,” Breslin. “I’m leaving it all out there every single time.”