Story Matters

Story Matters

THE Official HHS Football Site

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Highlands-Covington Catholic Sidenotes

Bluebirds Creep Closer to Ending Losing Streak Against Colonels

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands senior defensive linemen Henry King (6) and Kissee (69) tackle Covington Catholic senior quarterback Preston Agee (11).

The 8-7 loss Friday against Covington Catholic marked the closest the Highlands Bluebirds football team (4-5 overall) has come to beating the Colonels (5-3) during the eight-game losing streak in the series.

There have been times where the Bluebirds have been lucky to score on the Colonels during this losing streak. CovCath has shut out Highlands four times during this streak including a 42-0 blanking in Park Hills during the regular season last year.

Highlands lost 21-14 to Covington Catholic in Fort Thomas on Oct. 12, 2018. But in the rematch to decide the Class 5A region championship weeks later, CovCath shut out Highlands, 36-0 in Park Hills on the way to a state runner-up finish.

The Bluebirds still lead the all-time series, 49-25. But the two could meet again in the first round of the playoffs in few weeks if CovCath beats Conner in Hebron next week and Highlands loses at Cooper. 

History shows the team that improves the most in between the two games wins the rematch. The Bluebirds last beat the Colonels, 44-22 in the region title game on Nov. 20, 2015 doubling up the Colonels after escaping with a 14-10 win in Park Hills on Oct. 17 of that year.

Class 5A, District 5 Update:

Covington Catholic and Conner meet next week to decide the top seed for the Class 5A playoffs. CovCath is 3-0 in district play and Conner is 2-1.

Cooper beat Boone County, 34-0 in Union on Friday. The Rebels will miss the playoffs for the third straight year finishing 0-4 in district play. Highlands travels to Cooper on Friday to finish the regular season.

The Bluebirds hope to throw things for a loop with a win over the Jaguars. Highlands and CovCath wins would give the Colonels the top seed in the playoffs and leave Highlands, Conner and Cooper tied for second at 2-2. The Ratings Percentage Index would decide the seeds at that point. Cooper leads the way with a .59233 index and Conner is second at .53693. Highlands stands third at .49034.

Scouting Cooper:

The Jaguars are 6-2 having a big season behind the dynamic rushing duo of senior Brendon Tye and junior Eli White. Senior quarterback Drew Warth made his return after missing most of last year with an injury.

Cooper came to Highlands and won 48-21 last year putting up 401 yards rushing. The Bluebirds hope to penetrate the backfield better this year to contain Tye and White.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Highlands Tuesday Results: Boys Soccer Wins Region Quarterfinal Game

Volleyball Falls on Senior Night

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Highlands junior Casey Stiles (41) makes a move in a recent game.

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The Highlands Bluebirds boys soccer team (18-4-1 overall) has done a good job scoring first in recent games.

But the Bluebirds hoped to keep it up Tuesday to help keep their postseason alive in the 9th Region quarterfinal match-up against the Cooper Jaguars (13-6-3) at Tower Park. They did that in a 4-1 victory.

"If you look at the course of the season, some of our tougher results or games where we weren't super satisfied at the end were a lot of times traced back to a slow start then playing a little bit of catch up," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "As of late, we've been taking it to teams. We have guys that are eager and willing to do the dirty jobs and put themselves in position to score more so than earlier in the year. So I'm really proud of how this team has evolved."

Highlands takes on Covington Catholic at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the region semifinals at St. Henry. The championship game takes place Saturday at 4 p.m. at Boone County. All four district champions advanced to the region semifinals.

It started when their leading point-scorer in junior forward Colin Pieper scored on a free kick in the first half. The Bluebirds did not look back from there.

Pieper scored two goals and had an assist in the first half to help the Bluebirds build a 3-1 halftime lead. He played a through ball to senior Jordan Frisk for the second Highlands goal. After Cooper earned one back, Pieper hit a dazzling free kick from 30 yards out to give the Bluebirds that halftime advantage. 

Sophomore Chad Gesenhues scored his 10th goal of the season for the lone goal of the second half to make the final score for the Bluebirds. Senior Joel Kendall played a free kick into the box and junior Casey Stiles headed into Gesenhues for his fourth assist of the season.

"It's been a big part of our game this season," Kendall said. "We've gotten a lot of goals off free kicks much more than last year. That's decided a lot of tight goals for us."

Pieper has a team-high 22 goals and nine assists for a team-high 53 points. Frisk has 18 goals and a team-high 11 assists for 47 points.

Highlands had 13 shots with five on goal to nine shots for Cooper. Sophomore goalkeeper Jack Wilson made eight saves.

Highlands had 16 fouls, one corner kick and six offsides calls. The Bluebirds did not have any red cards. The Bluebirds beat Cooper, 2-1 on Sept. 1 in Union. But the Jaguars scored first.

The Bluebirds have advanced to at least the region semifinals the previous six seasons. The last time they did not advance past the region quarterfinals took place Oct. 20, 2015 when Covington Catholic edged Highlands, 2-1 on penalty kicks in the 9th Region quarterfinals at Dixie Heights.

Cooper 3, Highlands 0:

The Bluebirds (26-7) concluded the regular season honoring the nine seniors who have helped Highlands to three seasons of 25 or more wins outside of the 13-8 2020 campaign shortened by the Coronavirus 2019 pandemic during their four years of high school.

But Highlands could not find a way to beat 9th Region nemesis Cooper (20-10). The Lady Jaguars escaped in three sets by 25-16, 25-21, 25-23 scores. Cooper also beat Highlands in the Bluegrass Invitational in Lexington on Aug. 28.

This marked the 15th straight loss to the Lady Jaguars. Highlands last beat Cooper, 2-1 (25-17, 17-25, 15-13) on Sept. 19, 2009. Cooper opened in 2008.

Senior CC Shick is a four-year starter for Highlands. She had 10 kills, seven digs and one assisted block in the loss. The other eight seniors are Madison Clore, Honor Valentine, Madison Opitz, Lauren Buemi, Avery Cavacini, Sophia Sarakatsannis, Josie Steppe and Nicole Ossege.

Highlands had three aces, 35 kills and assists, two solo blocks by Buemi, two assisted blocks by Cavacini and Shick and 55 digs. Clore had 13 digs and Valentine had 10. Buemi had 11 kills and two digs. Sarakatsannis had nine digs and five kills. Opitz had 27 assists and eight digs and Ossege had seven kills.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Monday Highlands Round-Up: Girls Soccer Advances Soundly in Region Quarterfinals

Highlands Volleyball Downs Bellevue

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands junior forward Anna Melson makes a move in a recent game. Melson scored twice in the 6-0 9th Region Quarterfinal win over Ryle.

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The Highlands Bluebirds girls soccer team (13-4-1 overall) saw its second postseason post a similar result to the first in another 6-0 victory.

Highlands beat the Ryle Lady Raiders (9-5-5) at Tower Park to open the 9th Region Tournament. The two did not meet during the regular season.

The wins sets up a semifinal game against Dixie Heights (15-6-2) in the semifinals at Boone County on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. All four district champions won their quarterfinal games. Highlands beat Dixie Heights, 4-3 in Crestview Hills on Sept. 22.

Highlands recorded 19 shots to six for Ryle. Highlands senior goalkeepers Meg Gessner and Hailey Parks had four and two saves respectively.

"We were all over them," said Chris Norris, Highlands Head Coach. "We're playing great soccer now. It was great to see."

The Bluebirds scored three goals in each half. Sophomore forward Laney Smith led the way with two goals and two assists for six points. She has 20 goals and 13 assists on the season for 49 points. All are team-highs.

Junior forward Anna Melson scored the last goal of the first half and the second one of the first half. Melson has four goals on the season.

"Getting the third goal is definitely a confidence booster for the whole team because it puts you up a lot," Melson said. "I just think that we come out ready. When we have to do our job, we get it done."

Senior forward Chloe Bramble added one goal and two assists. Bramble has eight goals and 11 assists this year for 27 points.

Freshman defender Kate Fausz scored her second goal of the season. Freshman Claire Cavacini recorded her fifth assist of the season and senior midfielder Faith Broering tallied her sixth assist.

Highlands has advanced to the region semifinals nine years in a row. The last time the Bluebirds lost in the region quarterfinals came in 2012.

Highlands 3, Bellevue 0:

The Bluebirds (26-6) handled the host Tigers (8-16) by 25-7, 25-6 and 25-10 scores to finish off a perfect record in the four 36th District seeding games.

All 16 players saw action in the victory. Highlands had 41 kills and assists, 18 digs, one solo block and 19 aces. Senior Lauren Buemi led the Bluebirds with two aces, eight kills, one solo block, one assist and three digs. Senior CC Shick had four aces, 10 kills, eight assists and four digs. Senior Josie Steppe had three aces and junior Emma Daly had eight kills.

"They took really good care of that opportunity," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "They didn't let a lot of runs happen. They did a good job of taking care of business. It was a really good night."

Senior setter Madison Optiz had 19 assists with junior Kenzi Vennefron recording 11 to go with three aces. Senior Sophia Sarakatsannis had four digs.

"We can see how we can improve our energy, especially since we have nine seniors leaving after this year," said Bailey Houston, Highlands junior. "We're like a family. We always say we love each other after every point no matter what. I think that's what makes us in sync and be able to play well. It's okay to make mistakes. But we're always here for you."

Highlands concludes the regular season against Cooper (19-10) on Tuesday. Game time is 7 p.m.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Highlands Saturday Round-Up: Boys Golf Achieves Goal at State

Third Top 10 Finish at State in Four Years for Bluebirds

Contributed Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds Boys Golf Team finished ninth at state this year.

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Highlands Bluebirds boys golf Head Coach Bert Richey has set a bar for the team.

That is a top 10 finish at state. The Bluebirds had a huge excuse looking them in the eyes if that did not happen this year with the graduation of two NCAA Division I golfers from the school's best-ever sixth-place team in 2020 in Luke Muller and Justin Gabbard. They golf for Northern Kentucky University and Xavier University respectively.

But the Bluebirds came through and hit that goal winning their third Region 8 title in four years and finishing ninth at state shooting a 389 on the par 72 Bowling Green County Club course. Highlands shot the fourth-best team score of 39-over par 327 on the second day to move from 11th to ninth place.

"We didn't play well (Friday)," Richey said. "The kids did well keeping the ball below the hole and minimizing their mistakes. We didn't do a very good job (Friday) of playing like we should have and (Saturday), we did." 

The Bluebirds shot a 62-over par 350 on the first day. But four of the five scores improved from the first day.

Junior Joel Craft led Highlands on the second day shooting a two-over 74 for his career best round in six tries at the state tournament. Craft shot a two-day total of 160 good for a tie for 52nd overall. Craft has also played on the 2020 and 2018 region tournament championship teams. The Bluebirds placed eighth in 2018.

Highlands senior Jack Schneider and freshman Hank Shick returned from last year's state tournament team. Shick shot an 85 Saturday after shooting a state-best 81 Friday for a two-day total of 166 to tie for 69th out of 105 total who golfed both days. 

"I had to be more of a leader this year and just teach the three freshmen how to play and how to act on the golf course," Schneider said. "The nerves of playing at state for the first time are extremely high. As young as these kids are, it probably hit them a big harder. It's just go out and have fun on day two. You play best when you're relaxed. We were relaxed (Saturday) and people were enjoying the golf course because it was their last day no matter what."

Schneider shot his best round at state Saturday with an 81. He garnered a two-day total of 167 after shooting 86 on Friday. That tied for 71st.

Two freshmen made their first appearances at the state tournament this year in Nate Surrey and Oliver Golden. Surrey improved his score by 10 strokes Saturday going from a 97 to an 87 for a two-day total of 184 to tie for 101st. Golden shot a 98 Saturday after not finishing Friday.

"Coach Richey helped us out. He told us we could be good again," Surrey said. "I knew Oliver and I had to step up being the four and five guys. The (BG Country Club course) is really difficult so I think learning to stay with and stay in the game is really important just because it's a long course. If you have a double or triple bogey, you have to bounce back and have a comeback hole."

Highlands returns four golfers with state tournament experience for next year. The next goal would be to finish in the top five. 

"They improved the whole year. We played in a lot of tournaments," Richey said. "We got a lot of experience. I really don't worry about how we play until the end because I want to peek at the right time. We kept playing more consistent. Their confidence is growing. Jack and Joel did a great job of mentoring those kids along."

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Bluebirds Notebook: Highlands Golf Completes First Day at State Tournament

Highlands Wins Seventh Straight Against Boone County

PHOTO: Ed Harber. Highlands junior defensive lineman TreVaughn Woods celebrates after recovering a fumble against Boone County on Friday.

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The Highlands Bluebirds boys golf team found itself in 11th place out of 12 teams in the state golf tournament after the first day shooting a total of 350. 

The Christian Academy of Louisville shot 297 on the first day to lead Madison Central by a stroke after the first day. The par for the Bowling Green Country Club course is 72.

Freshman Hank Schick led Highlands shooting an 81 on that day. The next two scorers in senior Jack Schneider and junior Joel Craft shot 86. The fourth scorer in Highlands freshman Nate Surrey shot 97. Freshman Oliver Golden is in his first state tournament.

The second day of competition resumed Saturday.

Gessner Commits to NKU:

Highlands freshman goalkeeper Meg Gessner has committed to play collegiately at Northern Kentucky University. She'll join former Highlands players Lindsey Meyer and Lauren Deckert.

Highlands faces Ryle in the 9th Region Quarterfinals on Monday. Game time is 7 p.m.

Scouting Covington Catholic:

The Colonels come into the game Friday at 4-3. They defeated Boone County, 39-6 after holding off Coopers, 31-24 in overtime to move to 2-0 in district. The Colonels have won five consecutive district titles. CovCath has not lost three games in a season since going 9-4 in 2016 losing in the region title game to Louisville Fern Creek.

Sixth-year Head Coach Eddie Eviston led CovCath to a 44-1 mark between 2017 and 2019 with undefeated state championship seasons in 2017 and 2019. Current Miami (Ohio) quarterback AJ Mayer and younger brother Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer had a lot to do with that run.

CovCath did make it all the way back to the state semifinals last year losing 20-0 to eventual state champion Bowling Green. The Colonels finished 5-8 in Eviston's first season in 2015, but have not had a losing season since then.

The Colonels have won seven straight against the Bluebirds. Highlands is still seeking its 50 win all-time against CovCath still leading the overall series 49-24.

Class 5A, District 5 Notes:

The Cooper Jaguars (5-2) and Conner Cougars (5-3) met in a crucial game Thursday and CovCath took its bye week. Cooper destroyed Conner, 43-7 giving the Colonels sole possession of first place in district play at 2-0. Cooper and Conner are 2-1 in district play. Highlands trails at 1-1 and Boone County is 0-3. The Rebels will miss the playoffs for the third straight year.

Series Against Boone County:

The Bluebirds beat the Rebels for the seventh straight year since the series resumed in 2015 following a four-year hiatus.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Highlands Volleyball Earns 25th Victory

Bluebirds Defeat Boone County for Second Time This Season

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Honor Valentine prepares to serve in a recent game.

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With a convincing 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-13) win over the Boone County Lady Rebels (11-15 overall), the Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team improved to 25-6 on the season earning a fourth season of 25 or more wins in the last five seasons.

Highlands Eighth Grader Hayden Gessner watched her older sister Olivia Gessner lift the Bluebirds to consecutive 25-11 seasons in 2017 and 2018 before the 2019 team finished 29-8 overall. A Coronavirus 2019-shortened season last year left the Bluebirds at 13-8.

"We really just want to keep on with the legacy and keep bringing the energy," Hayden Gessner said. "It's just really exciting for everyone to see what we can possibly do and keep up with. It's really interesting to see what can happen during a game and how everyone is coming together as a team and making sure everyone has each others' backs."

The Bluebirds connected for 45 kills on 108 attempts with 17 errors for a .259 hitting percentage. Seniors Lauren Buemi had 16 kills with senior Avery Cavacini connecting for 10 and CC Shick adding nine.

Highlands also had 12 aces, two solo blocks, 60 digs and 45 assists. Seniors Madison Clore, Madison Opitz and Honor Valentine had three aces each and Shick had two. Cavacini and Buemi had one solo block each. Senior Sophia Sarakatsanis had 12 digs with Clore contributing nine. Opitz and senior Nicole Ossege had eight each. Opitz also had 44 assists.

"Honestly, the first two sets were both a little flat in just kind of finding our rhythm," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "We actually did a good job though of getting a lot of people involved offensively. It's probably the most balanced we've been all season. I feel like as we progress into the postseason, we have to be sure to move the ball around so that we can beat some bigger opponents. We did that (Thursday)."

Highlands Senior Girls Golfer Shoots Best Round of Career at State

Toole Ties for 29th Overall

Twitter Photo. Highlands senior KJ Toole shot an 80 on the second day of the state tournament Wednesday. Her two-day total of 164 tied her for 29th overall.

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Highlands senior girls golfer KJ Toole had one round of golf left in her career Wednesday and she made the most of it.

Toole shot a career-best eight-over 80 on the 18-hole par 72 course on the final day of the state tournament at the Bowling Green Country Club. That total went down by four strokes from the 84 shot Tuesday to make the individual cut to the second day for a two-day total of 164 good for a tie for 29th overall.

"I've been blessed and really lucky, especially having (Highlands Head) Coach Mike (Lipscomb) my high school years," Toole said. "I've worked hard and I really enjoyed it. The outcome is just a byproduct of what I've put in. It means a lot."

Bullitt East junior Macie Brown won the individual title shooting a two-day total of 141 shooting a three-under par 69 on the second day. Marshall County won the team title.

Toole improved her score by eight strokes from last year when she finished 58th overall. She shot an 88 on the second day last year for a two-day total of 172. She also shot an 84 on the first day last year.

"I'm so proud of her and all that she accomplished in her fantastic golfing career," Lipscomb said. "The school and our team couldn't have sent a better representative of Highlands to the state tournament. I would have to say that KJ is one of the best female golfers to come through Highlands. The sky is the limit for her and I can not wait to see what she does with her future."

Toole made the tournament for the third year in a row. She did not make the individual cut in 2019.

"This year, I even struggled some," Toole said. "This week, I've been kind of battling a back injury some so you can see it reflected in my scores. (Tuesday) in the front nine, I was three over. (Wednesday) on the front nine, I was one over. Then on the back, it's kind of hard to keep up that pace and that play when you have a little injury bothering you. I just hung in there mentally. No one wants to walk away in your final round down there and not feel too good."

Toole also helped the Bluebirds win their first tournament since Lipscomb took over the program in 2018. Highlands won the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference Division II title. She earned medalist honors shooting a 78.