Thursday, October 26, 2017
End of Great Season
But Highlands could not power its way post the Pandas (28-9) losing 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-15). Notre Dame will once again face St. Henry (30-8) for the region championship Thursday at 7 p.m. back at Holmes.
The Bluebirds had success doing a lot of the same things they've done all season. A nice dig came to setter Audrey Graves. Graves set Margot Seidel, Ava Hockney, Joy Kappesser and Casey Dunn at many different angles. The Bluebirds landed a number of kills off the Panda blocks.
"The first set was super exciting. We came out guns a blazing, not afraid at all," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "We just said we were going to give everything we got. We wanted to serve aggressively, swing aggressively and talk aggressively and I think we proved what we can do. In the second and third sets, there were times even then when we were leading. We would just hit a patch where we weren't passing well and they would get five or six points in a row. That's just hard to come back from against a team like that."
But where Notre Dame had a lot of success was hitting to the right and left lines. In particular, Highlands had problems stopping senior Natalie Hardig. Hardig took the nice sets from Lainey Stephenson and put a lot of them down. Highlands got some hands on a few of those hits and made things happen, but not consistently enough.
The Bluebirds led 7-4 at one point in the first game. But Notre Dame built a 19-13 advantage at one point before Highlands trimmed it to one at 22-21.
The next one stayed close at 13-13. But Notre Dame scored 11 of the last 12 points to pull off the win. The Pandas started the final game strong and did not look back.
This marked the final game for five seniors in Kappesser, libero Gracie Schweitzer, Maddie McCoy, Skyler Phillips and Mary Claire Redden. They are the first group to have Sallee all four seasons.
"I never would have known (some of her teammates) at all if I didn't play volleyball," Phillips said. "We're all really close. I wouldn't want a different team at all."
Graves had 27 assists and Dunn had 11 kills and 16 digs. Seidel had 10 kills, two blocks and eight digs. Hockney added six kills and a block with junior Olivia Gessner digging up nine balls.
That senior group led Highlands to its highest win total since 2008 and its first 36th District championship since 2012. The Bluebirds also captured their second Cake Classic title in three years.
"I think this season we did more than anybody expected," Seidel said. "I'm really proud of how far we got. I think at this point, we can only build on that because we have a lot of young talent coming up. I think it's only going to go up from here."
Highlands returns four starters next season in Dunn, Hockney, Graves and Seidel. Gessner also saw a lot of action. Junior Rebecca Eaton, sophomore Rylee Kirschenbaum and freshman Laura Winkler could also see bigger roles next year.