|Bluebirds Volleyball, Boys Soccer Record Non-Region Wins|
|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands senior Margot Seidel makes a pass in a recent game.|
The year was 2002. The Highlands Bluebirds improved to 5-0 for this first time since then with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-21) over the Kings Mills (Ohio) Kings Knights on Thursday in Fort Thomas. Highlands also snapped a six-game losing streak to the Knights beating them for the first time since the teams began playing on an annual basis in 2012.
"We made several adjustments," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "I think the best thing for us was our ability to read and anticipate the ball. Their players were doing things consistently over and over that were working for them. We just had to start changing our defense and moving to different balls, reading them and anticipating better. As soon as we started doing that, it's just like something clicked offensively as well. We were all on. It was a really cool team night. I told them everyone was individually doing her job and the team was just rolling."
It again started with solid digging. Highlands had 54 led by senior Olivia Gessner's 17. That let junior setter Audrey Graves record 48 assist to go with 10 digs.
Highlands attacked all over the court from both the middle and outside. The Bluebirds especially had success serving and hitting the ball deep. Senior Margot Seidel had 17 kills to go with an ace and junior Ava Hockney had 10 kills and six blocks. Freshman CC Shick returned to action and recorded 12 kills giving the Knights problems with her left-handed hitting.
"Ava Hockney had one of her best blocking nights I've ever seen," Sallee said. "This team was very big and very powerful. But she was making very good reads and was just quick on her feet and making the right plays. She was a force for us. We had CC back at the last minute. We didn't know we'd have her and we're just kind of rolling with what she could do. She played great. It didn't look like she was physically lagging at all. When you have those two in the middle, it's a whole different night for us."
Highlands had 50 kills, nine aces and seven blocks. Hockney had four aces with Gessner and junior Brooke Biltz recording two each.
"We have a lot of trust in each other," Biltz said. "From the beginning of the year, we did a lot of team bonding exercises and personality tests. That really helped with getting to know each other and how our different personalities can form each other's, how that can relate to the court and how that can help us in the future."
Highlands fell behind in the first game and could not come back. But the Bluebirds built a six-point advantage in the second game, increased it to eight and finished it when Hockney landed an ace.
The Bluebirds fell behind 3-0 to start the third game. But they scored five in a row to go up 5-3. The game stayed tight before Highlands pulled away. Shick had a block kill before Kings had a four-hit call to end the game.
"That's what we have to do to win the game because if we get into a whole, then we're not going to be able to win," said Laura Winkler, Highlands sophomore. "So we just have to forget about our mistakes and move on. We've gained a lot of good players on offense so we're real well-rounded and we're not lacking anywhere on the net. Defense helps with us also."
Highlands fell behind 4-0 before quickly coming back to go up 6-4. Shick had three kills down the stretch before Gessner finished it off with an ace.
"Olivia Gessner had the best night I've ever seen her play," Sallee said. "Without her effort, this game would have been easily a five-set match. She made digs that I've not seen her make consistently all year so I'm excited to keep that momentum rolling with her."
Highlands junior Casey Dunn is currently out. But she's making the best of the situation.
"I think I'm just trying to put myself in a position that they're in and trying to think of myself as a hitter and not so much as a player off the court," Dunn said. "I'm just really thinking about how I would be able to do what they're doing and what I would do. Tell them rules of the court that they can't see and just try to use that to the best of my ability."
The Bluebirds travel to Dixie Heights on Tuesday. Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Crestview Hills.
Highlands 6, Oldham County 1:
The Bluebirds are 4-0-1 on the season following a convincing win over the Colonels (1-2-1) from the 8th Region, 29th District. Oldham County won the 8th Region last year before losing 6-1 to eventual state champion Louisville St. Xavier in the state quarterfinals.
Highlands recorded 20 shots with 10 on goal and held Oldham County to nine shots with five coming on goal. Bluebird goalkeepers Will Burnham and Nick Fischer combined for four saves.
"(Oldham County) is a strong team," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "They tied Louisville Collegiate. Louisville Collegiate is probably a top three in the state so they've had some strong results. But our guys were just ready to go. I don't think we're five goals better. We just didn't give up and we were fighting the whole time. We just had no reason to hold back. As a coach and a player, you become a little bit fearful that the momentum might die out before the end of the game. I think we did a good job of keeping it up the whole 80 minutes."
The Bluebirds led 5-1 at halftime. Junior Caymon Stevie started the scoring on an 18-foot shot. Senior Mike Penrod had the assist. Following an own goal on a cross by junior Porter Hedenberg, Hedenberg fired a laser shot off a senior Carter Holmes assist to put the Bluebirds up 3-1.
"(Hedenberg) just brings a level of energy that I think was one the missing pieces early on," Niedert said. "Our first few games, we had slow starts. It just took us a little while to catch the rhythm. We had all cylinders firing from that first whistle."
After allowing their first goal this season, sophomore Max Farris scored on a senior Demetrius Sarakatsannis assist to put Highlands up 4-1. Senior forward Cary Gorrigan broke away to put the Bluebirds up by the halftime score.
Only one goal came in the second half. Hedenberg scored it with 23 minutes left in the game.
"We have a good team atmosphere," Penrod said. "Everyone enjoys each other. We don't really have anybody we dislike or anything like that. We joke around and stuff. But it's all for fun."
Highlands takes on Louisville Trinity (2-0) at Tower Park on Saturday. Game time is 6 p.m.
Highlands plays Boone County:
Highlands took on Boone County at Hickory Sticks Golf Course in California (Kentucky). It was not an official match because Boone County brought just two players.
Highlands freshman KJ Toole won medalist honors shooting a 44 and sophomore Ellie Rowland shot a 47. Rowland said Head Coach Michael Lipscomb's emphasis on analyzing the shots before taking them has helped lower scores.
"You definitely have a lot more time to read the greens and thinking through shots," Rowland said. "Most of the time that works our pretty well. The team has gotten so much better. By the time region rolls around, I think we're going to be shooting where we want to be."
Highlands takes on Bishop Brossart and Bracken County in a tri-match on Monday at Hickory Sticks Golf Course in California (Kentucky). Tee time is 3:45 p.m.
Highlands 40, Simon Kenton 20:
The Bluebirds opened the season with a victory at David Cecil Memorial Stadium. Foster Schuett led the way with two rushing touchdowns and Griffin Richter had the other one. Will Hartman had a kickoff return for a touchdown and Isaac Surrey throw a touchdown pass to Clayton Lloyd.
Highlands travels to Cooper on Tuesday. Game time is 6 p.m.