Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Bluebirds Shine on Rivalry Day
The Highlands Bluebirds boys soccer and volleyball teams took to the court and turf at Tower Park on Tuesdays with opportunities to do just that and they both came through. The volleyball team (12-3 overall, 2-0 36th District) took care of the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (9-4, 3-1) by a 3-0 (25-15, 25-8, 25-15) count on the Hill and down the road, the soccer team (11-0-1 overall, 6-0 9th Region) took down the Covington Catholic Colonels (3-4-1, 2-1), 4-1.
The Highlands volleyball team had not won at Newport Central Catholic since a 2-1 decision (25-23, 22-25, 25-19) on Sept. 21, 2004. Prior to two wins last year, the Thoroughbreds had won 24 of the previous 25 meetings.
Highlands just needs to beat Newport and Bellevue to lock up the top seed in the 36th District Tournament later in the season. That has not happened since the current format started in 2012.
Highlands had strong serving in the win with 14 aces. That led to a lot of mistakes by NewCath. Senior Margot Seidel led the way with seven aces on 17 attempts, six digs and tied freshman CC Shick with eight kills each. Junior Ava Hockney had six kills, three aces, two digs and one solo and another assisted block.
"(The upperclassmen) were all very supportive of everyone," Shick said. "If you made a mistake, they were right there and made sure you got that our of your head and kept continuing to push and do well."
Highlands had 24 assists and kills, 30 digs and one solo and one assisted block. Junior Brooke Biltz and senior Olivia Gessner had solid nights defensively with seven and six kills. Junior setter Audrey Graves had 23 assists and four digs. Junior Rylee Kirschenbaum returned to the line-up after missing the last six games and had three digs.
Highlands had struggled with serve reception against Oldham County in the championship of the September Slam at Scott and NewCath keyed on it to start the first game. But a timeout changed that and Highlands rallied for the win after the first 10 points of the game.
"As soon as we came out of that (timeout), we were kind of smooth the rest of the match," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "In the first timeout, I said, 'Guys. We are a different team when we pass the ball well and yoou know that. I know that so we have to pass and they started pass well. You're trying to get the ball mid-line so you don't want to be reaching. It just takes a lot of discipline with your feet so a lot of passing is getting your body in the right position and reading the serve well."
The second game saw the Bluebirds jump out to a 13-1 lead. But Gessner served a ball that barely clipped the net and hit the ground quickly to give Highlands the second game.
The third game stayed close early before a Seidel kill gave Highlands the lead for good at 5-4. Gessner served seven straight points that included a Hockney tip kill and block kill. The Bluebirds had to start tipping when NewCath began double blocking.
"I think the most amazing thing to see has been the underclassmen that have stepped in to the roles that we needed them to as other starting varsity players have gotten hurt," Seidel said. "That's really cool to see the maturity those girls have brought to the team even though it's the first time playing for the high school level on the varsity team. They've stayed level-headed."
Highlands went on another 7-0 run with Kirschenbaum serving. One of her aces hit the top of the net from the right side, but still went over the net and inside the line in front of a stunned NewCath player for the ace to give Highlands a 21-9 advantage. Hockney finished off the game with an ace.
"The game starts and points roll really fast. That's why is game is such a momentum sport," Sallee said. "If you have a couple bad balls in a roll, it can be hard to bounce back from. We've shown we can do that. We don't want to do it. We don't like doing it. But if we have to, we can and I think they showed some grit in that first set to come back and get better."
Highlands plays host to Boone County on Thursday. Game time is 6:30 p.m.
At Tower Park, the Bluebirds fell behind early, but that did not last long. Senior Luke Schweitzer recorded a steal and score to tie the game at 1-1. His second goal came with 5:58 left in the game on a nice left-footed shot.
Highlands has outscored opponents, 49-5 on the season. The Bluebirds have seven shutouts.
"Right now, we're a confident team," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "It's not like we screwed up. They earned that goal. We could have defended a little bit harder, but it wasn't like we fluffed any sort of defensive play. Our guys realized there's 78 minutes to play. We're just trying to make sure we focusing on things we could control. We rose to the occasion. As history tells me, Highlands and CovCath will get matched up in the postseason. It's a toss-up so we have to make sure we're prepared when we get to that point."
Schweitzer finished with five points in the game adding an assist. Schweitzer has eight goals and three assists on the season for a team-high 19 points. He is tied with junior Caymon Stevie for most goals on the team with eight.
The Bluebirds led 3-1 at halftime. Senior Carter Holmes received a nice pass from junior Porter Hedenberg after a nice run, took it to his left and finished to put Highlands up for good at 2-1. Holmes has six goals and three assists on the year for 15 points and Hedenberg has five goals and a team-high eight assists for 18 points.
"Our seniors are our backbone. We have some younger players that can definitely contribute," Niedert said. "We have this team philosophy where it's all about what we're going to get done and not really this individual stuff. There are disadvantages to having so many guys around. But most of it with this group is pointing in the right direction because they've been this big group for a long time. It's always been kind of team first with this group. It's led to us coming through adversity and these guys have talked about this moment for a long time. They've been split up with freshmen and JV (teams) when one guy gets pulled up. They've had high expectations for this season for a long time. We have no plan of drawing back everything else. It's kind of full steam ahead."
Sophomore Max Farris scored his seventh goal of the season with five minutes left in the half on an assist from Schweitzer. Farris finished in the far right corner. Farris has six goals and four assists for 16 points on the year.
"It really set a tone for the game," Farris said. "We each relaxed, but at the same time, the intensity grows because we each want to score and keep going. You have to bring the intensity every single game or it's not going to turn out well."
Highlands outshot CovCath, 25-9 including 9-4 on goal. Highlands senior goalkeeper Will Burnham made three saves playing the entire game.
"Whenever the ball is in the back of your own net, you're not pleased," Burnham said. "I turned around, got the ball out, punted it back up and we started again. It was like we hit the restart button. That really gave us a feel toward playing intensely. After that, we really started pushing them and the goals started coming."
The physical play saw the Colonels commit 10 fouls to four for the Bluebirds. Both teams had four yellow cards.
Highlands travels to North Oldham (7-4) on Saturday. Game time is Noon.