|Bluebirds Volleyball, Boys Soccer Defeat 9th Region Opponents|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Madison Opitz gets in position in a recent game.|
The Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team (10-2 overall) knew it would face a familiar 9th Region opponent several times this season after the two did not meet last year.
Round one belonged to the Bluebirds in convincing fashion. Highlands took care of the Dixie Heights Colonels (2-2), 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-13) in Fort Thomas. The Bluebirds moved to 2-2 against region opponents.
"Anytime you play someone you have a long-standing history with and take care of business like that quickly, it's a good sign of our mental fortitude and preparation for the game," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "I told the girls I don't think I have seen them firing on all cylinders like that all year. It all came together and it was a pretty fun night."
Highlands had 30 kills, 29 assists, five solo and four assisted blocks, 37 digs and 15 aces. Senior CC Shick led the way with 11 kills.
Senior Lauren Buemi had six kills, one solo block, two assisted blocks, five digs and six aces for the Bluebirds. Senior Sophia Sarakatsannis had six kills, one assisted block, six digs and five aces. Senior Nicole Ossege had four kills, one solo block and one dig.
Senior defensive specialist Honor Valentine led the Bluebirds with seven digs to go with two aces and two assists. Senior Madison Clore had six digs, one ace and one assist.
Highlands used both setters in the victory. Junior Kenzi Vennefron had 15 assists, six digs and once ace. Senior Madison Opitz had 10 assists and four digs.
"The team was very focused," Vennefron said. "I think Dixie is probably one of our biggest rivals so we really wanted to win. The team just really clicked."
Highlands focused on Dixie Heights junior Maia Long. Long led the Colonels with 27 kills after two matches.
"She's really talented. We just had a really incredible blocking and defensive night together," Sallee said. "Our serve-receive was just on point. Offensively, everyone did a really great job. Sophia took a ton of swings from the outside. Did great. Nicole did a great job. CC was pretty untouchable. They couldn't get her. It was fun to see the defense and offense come together like that."
Highlands takes on Boone County and Campbell County at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. respectively in the September Slam at Scott on Friday. The Bluebirds finish pool play against Dixie Heights and Covington Holy Cross on Saturday at 9 and 11 a.m.
Highlands 2, Cooper 1:
The Bluebirds (6-2-1) stayed undefeated in weekday games at 6-0 and moved to 5-0 against 9th Region opponents with the victory over the Jaguars (5-3-2).
"We feel like we finished out that first half pretty strong," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "We gave up a goal on a little bit of a slip-up. We felt that even though the score didn't indicate it, we were the better team in the first half. We were doing really well with connecting passes and building up from the back. It was hard for Cooper to have any idea where we were coming from. We put them on their heels. Our emphasis at halftime was to pick up where we left off because we were pretty sure we could get the job done. We got after it right away."
Highlands had 12 shots with four on goal to go with 12 fouls, one corner kick and a yellow card. Sophomore goalkeeper Jack Wilson saved all five shots on goal and junior Connor Mathis made one save.
"I think our defense took a step forward by just putting more pressure on Cooper," said Evan Jones, Highlands junior defender. "Our center backs did a good job stopping anything that went passed and our goalies had some really good saves. We just really stepped up our energy level in the second half to score two goals."
The Bluebirds trailed 1-0 at halftime. But junior forward Colin Pieper scored his team-high sixth goal of the season off a free kick to tie the game.
Highlands took the lead for good when senior Joel Kendall booted a free kick from midfield and senior Jordan Frisk finished it. That marked Frisk's fourth goal of the year and Kendall's third assist.
Highlands travels to Lexington Henry Clay on Saturday. Game time is 1 p.m.
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