|Highlands Volleyball Records Huge Home Win over Ryle|
|PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands sophomore CC Shick (left) gets in position. In the back, from left, are seniors Casey Dunn, Rylee Kirschenbaum and Brooke Biltz.|
The rise of the Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team has more than been a huge reason for it. The atmosphere has especially helped Highlands record huge wins over 9th Region opponents.
Highlands (14-2 overall) and Ryle (8-7) came into the match-up Tuesday tied for third in the latest Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association 9th Region poll. They are both ranked in the Top 25 as well at 12th for Ryle and 18th for Highlands.
For years, Ryle has been at the top of the region led by veteran Head Coach Tasha Lovins. Lovins has been at that position since 2002. The Lady Raiders have won 11 district championships and have only missed the region tournament once since Lovins became head coach. But like many teams, the Lady Raiders have not been able the region wall of St. Henry and Notre Dame.
Highlands figured some things out in the first set after not starting off strong and won it 27-25. The Bluebirds then took control to win the game, 3-0 winning the next two sets 25-16, 25-17. Highlands owns wins over Dixie Heights and has beaten two top-ranked region teams in Campbell County from the 10th Region and Pulaski Southwestern from the 12th Region.
Highlands Head Coach Katelyn Sallee said the near-.500 record for Ryle is deceptive. The Lady Raiders are led by sisters Lilly Trump, a senior outside hitter, and Lucy Trump, a sophomore outside hitter. Lilly Trump has committed to NCAA Division II Kentucky Wesleyan University and Lucy Trump has verbally committed to the University of Notre Dame. But Lucy Trump was not able to play.
Ryle has wins over rival and the region's fifth-ranked Cooper Lady Jaguars (14th overall), Dixie Heights and Louisville Holy Cross (tied for second in the sixth region). The losses for the Lady Raiders include the likes of seventh-ranked Lexington Dunbar, 8th-ranked North Oldham, 10th-ranked North Oldham, sixth-ranked Louisville Male, Toledo (Ohio) Notre Dame and Cary (North Carolina) Green Hope. They went 2-3 in the prestigious Louisville Volleyball Invitational Tournament.
"Ryle is an incredible team," Sallee said. "They still had some girls ripping balls. But I think we made some adjustments blocking-wise. We were either able to slow the ball down or make some difficult shots for people. The first set was a little rough for all of us."
Sallee credited senior libero Rylee Kirschenbaum for helping lead those defensive adjustments. Kirschenbaum had seven digs along with senior outside hitter Casey Dunn. Sophomore setter Audrey Graves added six digs and sophomore defensive specialist Madison Clore had five. Aside from Lilly Trump, the likes of senior Emily Knecht and junior Kayla Dunican also took their swings.
But Highlands ultimately took control of the net and made fewer mistakes than Ryle. Senior middle blocker Ava Hockney had one solo and combined with Graves for another block. But the likes of sophomores Lauren Buemi, CC Shick and Laura Winkler also aided in the blocking efforts.
"We really focused on (Lilly Trump) one of their players on the outside," Hockney said. "We noticed where her hitting tendencies were so we tried to block cross, which is usually where she would hit. That really helped us out on defense because it allowed our defenders to have a bigger chance of digging the ball."
Highlands connected on 37-of-112 hitting attempts with 11 errors for a .232 hitting percentage. The Bluebirds also had 37 assists, seven aces and 36 digs to go with 11 hitting errors, seven service errors, nine receiving errors, five blocking errors and five general ball-hitting errors.
When the Bluebirds saw the ball go to Graves, great things happened again. Graves had 36 assists to go with three kills. Dunn and Shick had 10 kills each. Hockney had seven and Winkler five.
"Our hitters are really strong," Buemi said. "We have worked really hard on it. Silly mistakes are going to be made in a game. But it's (about) shaking them off and saying, 'We have the next one.' It really helps with that."
The serving helped the Bluebirds as well. Dunn had three aces and Graves had two.
"We were zone serving the whole night so we knew where we were going at certain times," Sallee said. "Our girls not only served at targets, but served aggressively at target and were hitting them. So we were able to keep them out of system some, which helped."
Highlands had not played Ryle since a 3-0 (25-6, 25-13, 25-19) loss in Union on Sept. 25, 2012. Highlands last beat Ryle on Sept. 23, 2009 by a 2-1 (25-22, 20-25, 25-22) score.
Highlands travels to Covington Holy Cross on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands 2, Bishop Brossart 1:
The Bluebirds won their 10th of the season against four losses and three ties with a close one at Tower Park over the Mustangs.
Highlands took 29 shots with 18 on goal. Junior Max Farris scored both goals. Senior Porter Hedenberg had one assist and senior Caymon Stevie had the other. Farris has a team-high 10 goals and Hedenberg had four assists on the year.
"We had plenty of opportunities to score to make it pretty convincing. We just didn't finish," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "We just weren't focused in the final third (of the field) in the offensive part of the game. We had some negative moments that were pretty glaring. But overall, we possessed the ball and were pretty patient. That last piece is just missing."
Bishop Brossart only had four shots. But the Mustangs converted their lone shot on goal.
Niedert said shots are not about lining up and firing on goal. The right angles need to be there to beat defenders and the goalkeeper.
"Especially in the beginning of the season, we were scoring a lot," said Cole Lorenzen, Highlands sophomore midfielder. "I think we just need to stay calm. I feel like we panic in front of goalkeepers at times. That causes us to get off not as great of shots."
Highlands finishes the regular season against four Ohio opponents. The Bluebirds travel to La Salle in Cincinnati on Thursday. Game time is 7:15 p.m.
Highlands Finishes Second in NKAC Division II:
The Bluebirds shot a 335 in the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference Division II meet at the Courses of Kenton County. St. Henry won it shooting a 332.
The Highlands juniors once again led the way. Justin Gabbard shot a 76 and Luke Muller fired a 79. Freshman Joel Craft followed with an 84.
Highlands plays in the Kentucky Coaches Golf Association Tournament at Lexington on Saturday. The region tournament is Tuesday at Eagle Creek Country Club in Dry Ridge.