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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Thursday Highlands Sports Notes

Great Evening for Highlands Volleyball, Girls Soccer

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands junior Rylee Kirschenbaum (center) makes a pass while Casey Dunn (left) yells out instructions. The Bluebirds improved to 3-0 on the season with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Campbell County. 
A 2-0 start was nice for the Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team because it had not happened since 2012.

But the Bluebirds entered Thursday's home opener hoping to cap off the week with an even better clean sweep of three wins in four days to start the season. That had not happened since 2008.

The county rival Campbell County Camels (1-2) came into the game determined to take another step forward under the guidance of second-year Head Coach Kennedy Berkley. Campbell County has seven seniors on the team coming off a 17-18 season last year. The Camels lost to Scott in the 10th Region championship last year.

The nail-biter that could have gone either way saw Highlands come through for a 3-2 victory. After two sound 3-0 wins to start the season, the Bluebirds had to pull out everything to record the win.

"As that game got closer and closer because this is one of our big rivals, it just was more and more vital to get the serve in," said Rylee Kirschenbaum, Highlands junior defensive specialist. "So when I was back there, I had to take a moment, take a breath and I think it paid off. I think we thrive under pressure."

Highlands once again had to receive help from every player on the court. If the Bluebirds had success in the middle, Campbell County adjusted its blocking there. Junior Casey Dunn led the way with 15 kills and 20 digs.

Senior defensive specialist Olivia Gessner had a team-high 24 digs. But once again, junior setter Audrey Graves put up big numbers when the first passes came to her with 50 assists and 16 digs.

"I feel like this entire match was a pressure situation," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "Even the sets that we were leading, they were kind of at our heels the whole time. It was a really evenly matched night. I think it's going to be a good preparation for later in the season getting into postseason pressure situations."

Senior Margot Seidel and junior Ava Hockney also had big games again. Seidel had nine kills, five aces and 18 digs with Hockney recording 10 kills and five blocks. Highlands wanted to block better this game, especially against Campbell County power hitters such as seniors Hailey Scott, Elyse Wieland and sophomore Olivia Crowl.

"In the second game, we had some weakness with that," Sallee said. "They started being bigger at that. We started kind of hitting more into that. In the third game, we answered with a lot of pressure at the net. I think we started making better choices not being bigger, but being smarter and then playing behind that."

Highlands won the first game, 25-19 before losing 25-16 in the second game and winning the third game, 25-16. The Bluebirds had a chance to win it in the fourth game going up 24-22. But Highlands could not pull off the win losing 26-24.

Tied 2-2 in the second game, Hockney recorded two straight kills to give Highlands the lead for good at 4-2. Freshman CC Shick landed two kills before the Bluebirds hit a tough break leading 10-8.

Dunn had to come out of the game following a play near the net. But Highlands freshman Nicole Ossege came in for Dunn and landed a huge kill to put Highlands up 13-9 before two hitting errors then gave Highlands the win.

"I wasn't going to let us get down with Casey coming out," Ossege said. "I came in and played my role. Our energy was high and we wanted to keep it there."

Highlands plays Scott (1-5) on Tuesday in Fort Thomas. Game time is 7 p.m.

Soccer, Girls:
Highlands 5, St. Henry 0:

The Bluebirds opened their season with a win over the team that ended their season last year in the 9th Region semifinals, 1-0 on penalty kicks.

Highlands made sure the game did not come anywhere close to penalty kicks exploding for four goals in the second half after leading 1-0 at halftime. The Bluebirds out-shot the Crusaders, 24-7 including 21-4 on goal. This also marked the season opener for St. Henry.

"At halftime, the coaching staff kind of talked before we went in and talked to the girls," said Alex Dean, Highlands Head Coach. "We were just telling them that, 'Yes, it's 1-0. It's the same as being tied.' You have to have a 0-0 mentality. You have to come out fighting because they're going to try to put one on the board real quick and of course, they want to win. So you have to come out, put the pressure on them and we luckily got one in the first 10 minutes. That put pressure on them."

Highlands saw juniors Maggie Hinegardner and Rylee Thomas combine for the shut-out at goalkeeper. Hinegardner had three saves and Thomas had one. St. Henry goalkeeper Cori Riegler made 16 saves.

"I think ball-possession was great and energy like I've said at the beginning of the season, we've been talking about that all off-season," Dean said. "A girl would have the ball for St. Henry and we were on their back forcing them to pass it back."

Highlands started seniors Gwen Gorman, Hannah Hartman, junior Lauren Deckert and sophomore Greta Noble at defense in front of Hinegardner and Thomas. The next row saw senior Hanna Buecker, junior Parker Price and sophomore Kenzie Nehus at midfield. The Bluebirds did well clearing balls that entered the box and winning 50/50 balls.

"Winning 50/50 balls is always detrimental to a game," said Kelsey Mathis, Highlands junior midfielder. "It came make or break a team theoretically. The midfielders tries to do their best winning them all. Without working together, we wouldn't be as successful as we can be."

That led to a number of scoring opportunities up and down the board, especially for the starting forwards in senior Lindsey Meyer and juniors Jordan Halpin and Maria Wiefering. Wiefering, last year's leading returning scorer with 22 goals and 10 assists for a total of 54 points, opened the scoring in the first half on a penalty kick.

The Bluebirds built some distance in the first 10 minues of the second half. Gorman hit a long shot with 32:09 left in the game and junior Tatum Price scored less than two minutes later.

Highlands added two goals in the last 10 minutes. Junior Amy Herfel scored with 8:32 left in the half and Halpin assisted. Junior Kelsey Miller scored the final Bluebird goal with 2:34 left in the game with Meyer recording an assist.

"It doesn't matter who's scoring the goals," Meyer said. "We just want to accomplish our goals. It doesn't matter who's getting the credit for it. One person can't dribble down the field and do it on her own. If one person isn't giving an effort, it lets down the whole team."

Highlands plays host to Boone County (1-1) on Saturday. Game time is 5:30 p.m. at Tower Park.

Golf, Girls:
Another Dual Meet Cancelled:

Highlands had a dual match against Walton-Verona cancelled. Tee time was 3:30 p.m. at Hickory Sticks Golf Course in California (Ky.).

Highlands takes on Bishop Brossart on Monday at Twin Bridges Golf Course in California (Ky.). Tee time is 3:30 p.m.

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