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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Highlands Volleyball Claims Another District Championship

Highlands Wins 28th of Season

Contributed Photo. The Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team knocked off Newport Central Catholic, 3-0 to win a third straight district championship on Tuesday.
The Highlands Bluebirds did not disappoint in this 36th District volleyball tournament.

Highlands (28-7 overall) dominated district opponents during the regular season and did the same thing in the tournament cruising to a 3-0 victory (25-11, 25-13, 25-9) over the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (10-20) in the championship game on Tuesday at Bellevue. The Bluebirds have won three straight district titles and have won 18 straight against district opponents.
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That includes six in a row over the Thoroughbreds dating back to 2017. NewCath had won 24 of the previous meetings prior to that Highlands run. The Thoroughbreds won just 10 games last year after going 19-18 in 2017.

"They were definitely ready," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "I feel like we controlled the tempo and momentum of the match the whole night. We served really strong. We struggled with passing, but kind of got into a rhythm with that, too."

Despite NewCath's struggles, Sallee knew Highlands could not let the guard down. The Thoroughbreds are led by senior Rilee O'Day and junior Madison McCloskey.

"With the rivalry, you never know what you're going to see with a team," Sallee said. "That kind of energy can pull people into victories. We have to make sure we don't get comfortable at any point during the game. Momentum can change pretty quick."

Senior setter Audrey Graves won the tournament's Most Valuable Player honors. She had all 33 of the team's assists to go with an ace and two assisted blocks.

Senior middle blocker Ava Hockney also made the all-tournament team. Hockney had eight kills, two aces, four digs, one solo and one assisted block.

The third three-year starter in senior Casey Dunn also had another big game in her final district tournament. Dunn had 10 kills, three aces and eight digs.

"It means a lot to me and I think it proves how strong our program has grown over the past few years," Dunn said. "Every (victory) in the district championship for the past three years has proven it."

Highlands dominated the net. The Bluebirds had one solo and six assisted blocks to go with three blocking errors. Sophomore CC Shick had two assisted blocks to go with six kills and sophomore Lauren Buemi had an assisted block.

"(The blocking has) been really good," Buemi said. "We put all our effort into it. We've been pretty strong up there. Getting the timing down is a little stressful, but other than it, it's all fun."

Highlands landed 33 kills on 92 attempts and eight errors for a .272 hitting percentage. Junior Laura Winkler added six kills and seven digs.

Highlands also had 11 aces and 52 digs to go with five service errors, five pass receiving errors, three blocking and two general ball-hitting errors. Senior Rylee Kirschenbaum had three aces and 10 digs with sophomore Madion Clore digging up nine balls to go with two aces. Senior Brooke Biltz had eight digs.

The Bluebirds open 9th Region Tournament play Sunday at Boone County. The opponent will be 34th District runner-up Dixie Heights (23-10) at 4:30 p.m.

Highlands has drawn the Lady Colonels three straight seasons in the region quarterfinals. The Bluebirds beat them two years ago before losing to Notre Dame in the region semifinals before the Lady Colonels won last year. Highlands went 1-2 against Dixie Heights during the regular season beating the Lady Colonels at home Sept. 5 before losing 2-1 in the Jefferson County Volleyball Invitational on Oct. 4 and in the Cake Classic championship on Oct. 12, 2-1.

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