Highlands’ Hiester, Kiski Area’s Crosby continue female kicking tradition

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 7:01 PM

During her freshman year at Highlands, Hailey Hiester watched her soccer teammate, senior Taylor Gunn, kick as a starter for the Golden Rams football team.

She witnessed Gunn’s success, a collection of kicks that included a winning field goal in overtime to beat Apollo-Ridge in 2015. Gunn now is a junior forward on women’s soccer team at Slippery Rock.

Hiester, a standout as a forward/goalkeeper on the Golden Rams girls soccer team, then saw teammate Jaci Bowser, a recent graduate, take over at starting kicking in 2017 and last year. Her desire to kick and continue that budding tradition grew.

“I really thought about coming out for the football team, but I saw Jaci doing it, so I kind of held back,” Hiester said. “I then started talking to some friends on the football team and got their opinions. I said, ‘Oh, I really should do this. Why not?’ ”

She began kicking in late March, improved her technique and footwork along the way and she now is Highlands’ kicker.

At the high school level, football is not just a sport played by the boys. For many years, females have made their mark. Locally, Gunn and Bowser continued to set the tone, along with other recent graduates such as Burrell’s Marena Glaister, Freeport’s Abbey Harbison and Apollo-Ridge’s Megan Bonelli.

This year, Hiester and Kiski Area freshman Maxine Crosby are just two of several throughout the region getting their kicks and also excelling on the football field.

“It feels good to show you can be a female and start on a male football team,” Hiester said.

“There were a lot of things to work on when I started. Kicking a football is a lot different than kicking a soccer ball. There’s a lot of footwork to get down, and where you strike the ball is important, but I’m happy with the way I’ve improved.”

Hiester kicked an extra point in the Week Zero game against Plum, but it was blocked. She didn’t get a chance to kick in last week’s 31-0 loss to Keystone Oaks. A soccer injury suffered this week has her banged up, and she wasn’t able to kick Friday at Blackhawk.

“I should be back by next week all healed up,” she said.

Crosby, a goalkeeper on the Cavaliers soccer team, booted a pair of extra points in last Saturday’s junior varsity football victory over Shaler.

She is happy with how she has progressed since joining the middle school team two years ago.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to play football. My dad played, and I wanted to be just like him,” Crosby said. “One of my goalkeeper coaches for soccer, Nick Bisceglia, who was a kicker for Kiski, helped me get started. When I started in seventh grade, all the guys were really excited to have a girl on the football team. They wanted me to continue through high school, so I took their advice, and here I am.”

Crosby, who noted varsity Cavaliers kicker Cody Dykes has supported her, said the biggest challenges are working on hash angles for her approach and “just getting stronger kicks out there.”

For Hiester and Crosby, soccer is their No. 1 priority. They develop a schedule each week of when they have to focus on soccer games and practices and when they can work on football.

They say Sunday kicking sessions at Highlands with close to two dozen other area kickers are a valuable resource.

Organized by longtime kicking instructor Jon Bouchat, a Natrona Heights resident and kicking coach at Kiski, the sessions begin in March and run through the end of the season. They involve instruction from some of the A-K Valley’s most successful kickers, including Freeport graduate Jake Sarver, Highlands grad Sam Elliott and Kiski Area grad Adam Mitcheson.

Mitcheson recently completed a successful kicking career at the University of Buffalo, Elliott kicked for Saint Vincent through his senior year last fall and Sarver is a sophomore kicker and punter at Washington & Jefferson.

“Maxine and Hailey are very good athletes and have worked hard at the sessions and elsewhere,” Bouchat said. “They are really dedicated to being good football kickers.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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