Local soccer star wins NCAA title

CLUTCH KICKER: Michael Holder, seen here in a photo from the NCAA Division II championship game, scored the game-winning goal for Northern Kentucky University in a 3-2 win over Rollins. Behind him is teammate Kevin Donnelly.

Game-winning marker came from Michael Holder

Michael Holder has a knack for scoring game-winning goals.

Unlike the playoff hockey goal he scored in double overtime to send his Leaside Lancers hockey team to the South Region semi-finals in February, his latest notch won him the NCAA Division II soccer title in December.

Taking a pass from his Northern Kentucky teammate Anthony Meyer, Holder headed the shot at the Rollins Tars goalkeeper — too much to handle, the ball slipped past him in the 64th minute of the final.

It was one of 15 goals the freshman would score in 24 appearances.

“It felt good,” he said. “The coach told me before I would be a big part of the team in scoring and I guess the team was able to get me involved in the play and get me the ball.

“I was lucky enough to finish them a lot of times.”

It’s interesting to note the former Lancer, attending Northern Kentucky on a soccer scholarship, only started 16 games.

“I started off as a starter and then I got injured during the season,” Holder said. “Because I was still able to play, I was only playing limited minutes.

“Even though I recovered fully during the playoffs the coach liked how I was coming off the bench so he kept me as a sub.”

That strategy by Norse head coach John Basalyga proved to benefit both Holder and his teammates.

Northern Kentucky is a repeat offender when it comes to NCAA regional titles, winning four times out of the last five years. This year however there were 11 freshmen, including Holder, on the roster.

“There was a lot of new faces, a young team, but it was good for the team to gel together so quickly and be able to do what we did in our first year with the new field,” he said.

Now the season is over, he’ll be in the gym working on getting stronger but not so buff as to not impede his speed, Holder said. Then it’ll be back to the pitch in August to defend the Norse’s title.

One thing that is a sure stand out from his first championship title was snow in Kentucky.

But with his hockey experiences, snow is merely the icing on the rink.

“I don’t really like the cold but I’m from Canada so obviously I’m used to the snow,” he said. “I was worried about my footing but I was a bit more cautious while staying within my style of play.”

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