|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Gracie Schweitzer (middle) digs up the ball while Emma Delagrange (31) gets in position in Thursday's game at Newport Central Catholic.|
The Highlands Ladybirds volleyball team (12-11 overall) hoped to use it to knock off the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (14-14) in 36th District action Thursday on the Hill. Highlands gave a great effort, but came up short in a 3-1 (25-13, 25-22, 24-26, 28-26) loss. The Ladybirds dropped to 2-1 in district action and 6-7 in 9th Region play.
Highlands has lost seven straight to Newport Central Catholic including 22 of the last 23 meetings dating back to 2005. That lone win came in the 2012 district tournament championship game.
The last time the Ladybirds won on the Hill was Sept. 21, 2004, 2-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-19). Highlands beat NewCath three times that year on its way to the state tournament.
"The first set was a little disappointing," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "I think we needed to just get that one out of the way. I was really proud of how they toughened up for the second set. It would have been really easy to doubt yourself and they pushed forward. The served aggressively. They swung aggressively. They played good defense. It showed a lot of strength and character."
Senior Lauren Epperson had a great game for Highlands recording 19 kills and 28 digs. Senior setter Emma Little had 44 assists. Sophomore Margot Seidel had 10 kills and junior Gracie Schweitzer recorded 23 digs from the Libero spot.
"We've got people we can count on," Sallee said."But at the same time, we can distribute the ball around and that's been really nice."
The first game started off tough for Highlands. NewCath built a 10-3 advantage on its way to the win.
But Highlands came out swinging in the second game. The Ladybirds scored the first three points. But the Thoroughbreds came back to take a 5-3 advantage. It stayed close the entire way. Highlands led by two several times. But Rachel McDonald and cousin Mikah Freppon landed kills to finish the second game.
"We know we can handle (McDonald)," Sallee said. "They've got two really good hitters. But as a team, we are more balanced. When they serve and we put it away the first time and not give her an opportunity to swing, we're going to be more effective against them. If she is swinging, we just have to slow the ball down a little bit."
The third game stayed close until Epperson stepped up to serve three straight aces to put Highlands up 18-14. The lead expanded to five a couple times before NewCath came back to tie the game at 24. But Epperson landed two kills to give Highlands that game.
The fourth game saw a tight game turn in favor of Highlands toward the end. Sophomore Olivia Gessner landed an ace giving the Ladybirds a 24-19 advantage. But Freppon landed an ace and McDonald had three straight kills to tie the game at 24. The teams tied at 25 and 26 before McDonald landed another kill and Highlands hit the ball just outside the pole giving NewCath the victory.
Highlands plays in the Jefferson County Invitational Volleyball Tournament over the weekend.