|Jennifer Jones Photo. Highlands pitcher Joey Cochran helped the Highlands baseball team to a 22-18 record and appearance in the 9th Region title game this past year.|
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Sports Reporter
As usual, the Highlands and Newport Central Catholic sports teams had plenty of great moments during the 2013-14 school year.
You have to start with the Highlands girls cross country Class AA state championship when talking about the fall. Cross country does not receive the attention that other sports do. The Ladybirds ran away from the competition for the second straight year by 76 points. Highlands freshman Chloe Gastright led the way taking fifth in 19 minutes and 36.77 seconds.
The Highlands boys took third in the state meet behind North Oldham and Covington Catholic with 114 points. But Highlands moved up three spots from the previous year.
Both football teams again made it to Bowling Green to play for the 2A and 4A state championships, but came up short. Louisville DeSales edged the Thoroughbreds, 34-26 and Collins beat Highlands, 37-34 on a touchdown pass with seven seconds left. That ended the Bluebirds’ run of six straight titles, but gave them motivation for this season.
It has been a big offseason for the Bluebirds. Longtime head coach Dale Mueller retired after 20 years to spend more time with his family. He owned a record of 250-36 during that time with 11 state championships and three runner-up finishes. Defensive Coordinator Brian Weinrich took his place.
All four soccer teams also had great seasons. The Highlands and NewCath boys teams locked horns in a great 9th Region title game at Ryle. The Bluebirds won 1-0 when Mitch Gesenhues scored about a minute into overtime following a free kick into the attacking zone by Cole Davis-Roberts.
The Bluebirds (17-8-1) went on to defeat West Jessamine by the same score in the state first round before losing 3-1 to Lexington Paul Dunbar in the state quarterfinals. Dunbar ended up winning the state championship.
NewCath (14-5-1) won another district championship beating Highlands, 2-1. It took penalty kicks for the Thoroughbreds to beat Covington Catholic in the 9th Region semifinals.
On the girls’ side, Highlands made it to the 9th Region title game after winning the 36th District championship and Newport Central Catholic made it to the semifinals. Both teams lost to eventual state champion Notre Dame, which did not allow a goal the entire postseason.
NewCath won the All “A” state championship. The Lady Breds beat Owensboro Catholic, 2-0 in the title game. They outscored all three opponents, 17-2 in the state tournament. It marked their first title since 2007.
In volleyball, NewCath rebounded from a tough 2012 to go 17-17 against the same tough schedule. The Thoroughbreds fell 3-0 to Ryle in the 9th Region semifinals. Highlands (13-26) lost to eventual state runner-up Notre Dame in the 9th quarterfinals.
NewCath’s basketball teams put together another stellar winter. The girls (29-5) won their fourth 9th Region crown since 2003 edging Notre Dame, 48-46 in overtime when Michaela Ware hit a lay-up in the final seconds. NewCath then lost to eventual state champion Louisville Butler, 54-52 in the first round of the state tournament.
NewCath had three seniors in Stephanie Lewis, Nikki Kiernan and Chelsea Schack. The Thoroughbreds also claimed their fifth 36th District championship in six years, an eighth straight All “A” 9th Region crown and lost to Danville in the All “A” semifinals.
The NewCath boys (29-4) dominated the basketball scene again with three starters at 6-feet-5-inches and taller in Ben Weyer, Jake Schulte and Drew McDonald. A solid outside game made them difficult to guard.
NewCath captured a sixth straight district title to go with a second straight All “A” state championship. The Thoroughbreds beat Cordia, 72-61 in the title game before losing 51-43 to eventual state champion Covington Catholic in the 9th Region semifinals.
The Highlands girls put together another stellar winter at 23-8. The Ladybirds had just one senior in Tomi Blanton after losing six from the previous year’s region final team. The highlight of the year was beating NewCath, 45-40 on Jan. 4 on The Hill. They had not won there since 1999 and captured the top seed of the district tournament.
The Highlands boys may have won just nine games. But the Bluebirds made the region tournament for the first time in two years following a 75-64 win over Newport in the district semifinals.
The spring saw Highlands capture its second state championship of the year when the boys track team won Class AA for its first title since 1959 and third overall. The Bluebirds had been close on several occasions.
In girls tennis, junior Meredith Laskey put together a great year. She made it to the singles title game losing to McCracken County’s Michelle McKamey. Teammates Abby and Lexi Herman advanced to the doubles semifinals. They lost to Russell’s Maci Ferguson and Kiersten Hensley.
The Highlands softball team had a season to remember this past spring putting together many program firsts. Highlands finished 27-14 and won 19 in a row at one point before losing to Owensboro Apollo and Ashland in the state tournament.
Highlands had some tough games to get to the state tournament. The Ladybirds edged Newport Central Catholic, 2-1 in the 36th District title game and Notre Dame, 8-7 in the 9th Region title game. Highlands also beat Estill County to win its first state tournament game. Highlands loses two seniors from that team in Ashley Grosser and Kendall Turner.
NewCath also had a good season at 18-11. The Thoroughbreds won the All “A” 9th Region crown before losing 2-0 to Conner in the 9th Region quarterfinals. The Thoroughbreds graduate just Taylor Burkart and Molly Mertle from that team.
The Highlands baseball team put together a memorable postseason run finishing 22-18. The Bluebirds easily won their third straight 36th District title win two run-rulings over Newport and Bellevue.
The momentum continued into the 9th Region Tournament with a 10-0 run-ruling of Beechwood and 7-4 win over Dixie Heights in the semifinals. The Bluebirds lost 3-0 to Conner in the title game. But the Highlands freshmen and junior varsity teams captured the region crowns so a title is in the near future.
Congrats to the senior classes at both schools. You will be missed.
Fall sports practices begin July 15.