|Highlands Volleyball, Boys Soccer Record 9th Region Wins|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior Ava Hockney prepares to serve in the match at Beechwood on Tuesday.|
That happened once again in a 3-0 win (25-11, 25-14, 25-20) over the Beechwood Lady Tigers in 9th Region action Tuesday. This marked the first game for Beechwood.
"We focus on making every first ball something that we could run all three sets on," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "We realize when we set the good first ball, we set the tempo of a match. That's volleyball. If you have a good first ball, you have a better second ball and a better third ball. We encouraged that. We set goals as a team."
Highlands finished 16-7 against region opponents last year in its 25-11 season. But during the 1-4 injury-riddled start, Beechwood handed the Bluebirds one of those region defeats. The Bluebirds had lost the last three matches against Beechwood and 10 of the previous 11. The last time Highlands beat Beechwood was 2-0 (25-22, 25-22) on Oct. 10, 2014 in the Cake Classic and the last time the Bluebirds beat the Lady Tigers in Fort Mitchell came 2-0 (25-21, 25-15) on Sept. 9, 2010.
All 10 players contributed in some fashion in the Highlands victory. The solid first contact started with senior libero Olivia Gessner with 12 digs. Junior Casey Dunn had nine digs to go with 11 kills and two aces. The second ball then went to junior setter Audrey Graves who did her thing all over the court with 46 assists.
Junior Ava Hockney leaped up and landed 13 kills. Senior Margot Seidel tied Dunn with 11 and freshman left-hander CC Shick added to the attack with eight kills. Hockney also had three aces.
"We really connect well as a team so getting wins like this really boosts our confidence," Hockney said. "It's pretty tough to beat when we can get all our hitters in action and we're in system. I think we did a lot better passing and bettering the second ball so that we could really terminate on the third ball."
Highlands entered the season with a combination of experienced and young, talented players. But the trust they've quickly developed with one another has been evident so far.
"The (team) lock-in (days ago at the high school gym) really helped and the upperclassmen are really inviting just making sure everyone meshes well together," Shick said. "They're always there to have my back. They come and say, 'You're alright. You got the next ball.' They're all just open arms."
After running away in the first two games, Sallee said Highlands had to regroup when Beechwood began blocking balls better. The Lady Tigers went ahead 18-16. But Highlands went on a 5-0 run when Seidel and Hockney landed two kills each to go up 22-19. Seidel landed two more kills including one off Beechwood blockers and out of bounds. Sophomore Laura Winkler recorded a tip kills to end the match for Highlands.
The Bluebirds did not make anywhere near as many self-inflicted errors in the game compared to Beechwood. They hope that takes them a long way this year.
"That's constant," Sallee said. "Even if everyone reduces one or two errors per set, it changes not just that point, but subsequent points because it's such an energy sport."
Highlands plays its first home game Thursday against Campbell County (1-1). Game time is 7 p.m.
Highlands 7, Covington Holy Cross 0:
The Bluebirds cruised to a 9th Region win to open the season at Tower Park.
Sophomore Max Farris led Highlands with seven points scoring three goals and recording an assist. Seniors Carter Holmes, Adrian Mills, Alex Ford and Mike Penrod had one goal each with sophomore Brayden Gillman and junior Caymon Stevie recording one assist each.
"With 25 on a roster, it's hard to make sure that everybody is on the same page making sure we're all motivated and we're all ready to get going," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "It does a little bit of the work for us when it's the first game of the season. Everybody's excited to play and the game gets a little bit chaotic a little bit early on. After we scored goal off a corner kick, we didn't really turn back from there. It was full steam ahead."
Highlands out-shot Holy Cross, 35-12 including 3-1 on goal. Highlands scored around 15 minutes into the game then played the game one-up after the Indians received a red card. Bluebird junior goalkeeper Nick Fischer had to make just one save. But Fischer did record an assist.
"I think we just got together as a team and knew that we needed to keep playing," Mills said. "Although the other team had gone down a man, I think we needed to keep playing with the same intensity to be able to still accomplish our goal, which was try to get a solid win. I think we were able to accomplish that."
The Bluebirds take on Lexington Dunbar (0-1) in the Lexington Soccer Showcase. Game time is 6 p.m.
Highlands, Ryle Cancelled:
Highlands hoped to face the defending 6th Region champion Ryle Lady Raiders on Tuesday at AJ Jolly Golf Course in Alexandria. But it was rained out.
Highlands had a dual match scheduled against Walton-Verona on Thursday. Tee time is 3:30 p.m. at Hickory Sticks Golf Club in California (Kentucky).