By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
ERLANGER – If this score holds up, it will go down as a nice win for the Highlands Bluebirds men’s soccer team.
The Bluebirds traveled to St. Henry on Thursday and took a 1-0 halftime lead. But lightning came to the area and the teams decided not to play the second half for safety reasons. Highlands head coach Matthew Winkler and Crusader head coach Steve Hahn said the second half could be made up later in the season.
Highlands entered the game off a 9-0 win over Covington Holmes on Tuesday and St. Henry tied Lexington Catholic, 1-1. The Crusaders had won the previous two meetings.
The Blubirds had problems getting off shots against the Crusader defense. But they made their lone shot of the half count. Junior Andrew Barnes centered a pass to sophomore Devin Dupont with 2:35 left in the half. St. Henry goalkeeper Nick Wilde had no chance to save that shot.
“I was in the right spot at the right time,” Dupont said. “It was a nice pass and it came off the foot right. You need to find good spots on the field to get off good looks at the goal.”
St. Henry had several chances prior to that point. Ben Hills broke free for a 1-on-1 but Highlands goalkeeper Nick Breslin deflected it wide and the rebound shot went to the left of the net. Breslin had six saves in the half deflecting one of St. Henry’s three corner kicks over the net.
“The defenders are starting to work together and learn each other’s style of play,” Winkler said. “It gives you more comfort to face a quality team like this and see your defense hold up. We’re not the fittest team right now and we have to work on that.”
Highlands plays again Saturday at home against Pendleton County. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands Volleyball Preview
The Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team hopes to only go up from last year.
Highlands graduated five seniors from last year including Jesse Bryson, now at Colorado College. The Bluebirds have five seniors again this year out of 10 players. But Mulroney said the team chemistry is already better than last year.
“It’s extremely hard because they’re girls obviously,” Mulroney said. “The lucky thing about these 10 is they’re great friends on and off the court. They’re in their own little clique almost. They’ll do anything for each other. We’ve never had that as a whole team.”
Highlands’ lone returning starter is sophomore setter Kaitlin Hall. Their tallest player is sophomore outside hitter/middle blocker Jessica Ginter at 5-foot-11. The seniors are defensive specialist Lauren Tallon (5-3), outside hitter Sydney Lindeman (5-6), defensive specialist/setter Brooke Hamilton (5-5), Sarah Schweitzer (5-8) and defensive specialist Katie Van Curen (5-3). Senior Leah Schaefer decided to focus on just basketball this year.
Mulroney and staff also has three juniors on the roster. They are defensive specialist Frances Tracy (5-4), middle blocker/outside hitter Mallory Seidel (middle blocker/outside hitter), and middle blocker Abby Schweitzer (5-7).
Highlands’ big goal this year is to win a District 36 title. The Ninth Region is loaded with state powers Notre Dame, St. Henry and Ryle, which features many players standing above 6-feet.
“We have a lot of girls play volleyball year-round, but not of that caliber yet,” Mulroney said. “The program as a whole needs to get turned around. It’s going to take us a long time to get there.”
Highlands is 2-2 overall and 1-0 in District 36 action opening up with home wins over Newport and Lloyd Memorial followed by a loss to Boone County on Tuesday and a 3-1 (10-25, 15-25, 25-20, 20-25) loss at Simon Kenton on Thursday. Against Newport, Highlands had 19 kills, eight aces and 16 assists. Seidel led Highlands with five kills. Hall had 14 assists and three aces with Hamilton also adding three aces.
Against Simon Kenton, Ginter had nine kills and three blocks and Hall had 19 assists and four aces. Seidel added three blocks and Van Curen had 10 digs.
Highlands travels to Beechwood on Monday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.