NEWPORT, Ky. -- Morgan Barnes wasn’t quite sure, even as late as June, that she would have a chance to play soccer for Newport High School. So when the 14-year-old freshman found out in July that there would be a girls’ soccer team at the high school this fall for the first time since 2009, she was ecstatic.
“It was a really good feeling,” Barnes said. “It felt great that I was going to get to play for my high school and play with a whole lot of girls that I knew who had never played soccer before and I would get to help them learn.”
Newport began its return season with a 10-0 loss to the Scott High School junior varsity team Monday night at Newport Stadium, but coach Elle Ventre said it was the first in what will be a season of learning experiences.
“The girls are learning every minute of play and the beginning of the Newport soccer program has begun,” Ventre said.
“I am excited to bring girls’ soccer back to Newport,” Newport Athletic Director Tim Mosley said. “We had an indoor club team last year that was pretty popular and a lot of girls are excited for an opportunity to play this year. We decided to bring the sport back because we want to give our students every opportunity to experience success that we can and this is another way to get kids involved.”
Ventre, who played soccer at Mercy High School in Cincinnati before playing in college at Ohio Valley University from 2010-2013 in Vienna, West Virginia, officially became the Newport head coach in July. Right away, she started contacting girls who had mentioned an interest in playing. Eleven girls showed up for the first conditioning day and the team now stands at 21 members ranging from seniors to seventh-graders.
Barnes, 14, is the only player on the Newport team with any organized soccer experience.
“From the very beginning, almost all the girls we’ve seen have either never played or have just played for fun,” Ventre said. “So starting in July, we learned the basics of passing and dribbling, how to take a throw-in, what all the positions do. All the girls have come so far. They’re taking the interest.”
Ventre, who is in her third year as a third-grade teacher at Newport Intermediate School, has already seen progress in her players.
“They look almost like a whole new team from where we started,” Ventre said. “We’re able to dribble the ball and we’re able to get first touches. From a coach’s standpoint, we’ve seen a total transformation in these girls.”
Barnes has played soccer since she was 3 and has taken a leadership role in teaching the game to her new teammates.
“These girls work hard and they listen,” Barnes said. “They want to learn about the sport and they’re very interested in it.”
Just as most players had no experience playing soccer, they were also short on equipment and needed a schedule of games to play on short notice. As of Monday, the Wildcats had a six-game schedule.
“Luckily, we’ve had a lot of support from other Northern Kentucky coaches who want to help build soccer in Northern Kentucky and we’ve had a lot of donations from club soccer,” Ventre said. “Northern Kentucky Soccer Academy donated a lot of gear because we didn’t have anything to start. Our girls didn’t have shin guards, didn’t have socks, didn’t have cleats. Conner High School donated some stuff and their coach has been very supportive. Covington Catholic donated a bunch of socks for us, too.”
Ventre is still trying to add games to the schedule. Since the Wildcats play a junior varsity schedule, only the seventh-graders through sophomores are allowed to play against Kentucky teams.
“So we’re working on getting games with Ohio teams for our juniors and seniors,” Ventre said. “If not, then next year they will have a solid varsity schedule to play.”
Barnes expects this season to be a learning experience for the players, but believes the program will be competitive sooner rather than later.
“Coach Ventre is one of those soccer coaches who played in college and she is great,” Barnes said. “She knows a lot about the sport. She is very willing to help you. She is a really good soccer coach for these girls.”
Newport Girls’ Soccer Schedule
Aug. 26- Scott, 6 p.m., Newport
Sept. 6- at Ludlow, 5 p.m.
Sept. 15- Villa Madonna, 6 p.m., Newport
Sept. 19- Ludlow, 6 p.m., Newport
Oct. 3- Dayton, 6 p.m., Newport
Oct. 5- at Conner, 5:30 p.m.