|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.