|Lineup Adjustments Work Wonders for Bluebirds|
|Highlands junior Cole Lorenzen gets in position in the game against Holy Cross on Tuesday.|
(Img: G. Michael Graham, FTM)
By G. Michael Graham
The Highlands Bluebirds volleyball team opened the season Tuesday with new lineups and a victory on the road in the 9th Region.
Highlands landed 24 kills on 67 attempts with six errors to record a .269 hitting percentage. The Bluebirds also had 24 assists, 17 aces, 31 digs and three solo blocks.
Highlands did not have any scrimmages entering the first match because of Coronavirus 2019. The Bluebirds normally travel to Lexington for the Bluegrass Games weeks before the season starts.
"We started the first set off really strong, served really well," said Katelyn Sallee, Highlands Head Coach. "(In the) second set, Conner woke up a little bit and put some more pressure on us so we had to respond to that. It challenged us quite a bit. By the third set, I changed the lineup back and made a few tweeks. On day one, we're going to have some things pop up with areas of growth we want to see including serve receive issues and controlling the first ball. Those are things that are pretty normal. We're going to work on them this week."
Senior Laura Winkler stepped into the setter role nicely recording 22 assists for the Bluebirds. She also had six kills, six aces and six digs.
Junior CC Shick had a big game entering her third season as a starter. Shick recorded six kills, two digs and two solo blocks. Junior Lauren Buemi had the other solo block for Highlands.
Highlands junior Sophia Sarakatsannis had another big game with five kills. She added five aces and seven digs. Sarakatsannis and fellow junior Nicole Ossege knew they'd have bigger roles this year after seeing limited action on varsity last year.
"I definitely think (it's about) the mindset - not playing scared," Sarakatsannis said. "You go into it with the mindset that I got pulled up because I'm good enough to be on this team and you're going to work the hardest you can to make the team better and not be the weak link."
Junior Madison Clore tied Sarakatsannis with seven digs. Senior Maria Little had four.
Highlands takes on Simon Kenton on Thursday in Independence. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Highlands 2, Covington Holy Cross 2:
Highlands still has not lost to a team from the northern three counties of Kentucky since 2017.
But in each of the last two seasons, one has managed to tie the Bluebirds. Holy Cross did it to open the season at Tower Park.
"We're the ones circled on a lot of teams' schedules this season," said Chad Niedert, Highlands Head Coach. "For the guys that didn't get a lot of minutes last year, it's a little bit of a wake-up call. If we don't bring at least close to our A game with regularity, it could be a tough season. But in all fairness, there was a lot of good. We still win that game if we finish our chances."
The Bluebirds wound up out-shooting the Indians on goal, 8-6. Senior Jack Banks started Senior Night for Highlands at goalkeeper before sophomore Connor Mathis took over. Banks made two incredible saves in the first couple minutes. Mathis had another one.
Senior Austin Frazier drove up the right side to give Highlands the lead with 32:04 left in the first half. But senior Cameron Haggard tied it with 30:27 left in the half for Holy Cross.
Highlands came out strong to start the second half. After several big chances, senior four-year starting forward Max Farris gave the Bluebirds the lead at 21:33 left in the second half.
"We gave our seniors the opportunities and recognition they deserve," Niedert said. "We weren't able to find our actual flow until that second half. When we were able to start fresh, we kept the ball well. We have 10-plus games to figure out what this 2020 looks like and not what individuals look like. I have no doubt we can do it. We just need to be patient to give it 10 games to get there."
The Bluebirds held the lead until 2:52 remaining in the game. Senior Jeremy Faulhaber drew a penalty kick and buried it to make the final score for Holy Cross.
"Obviously, we didn't get the result that we wanted," said Gabe Beiting, Highlands senior. "You can chalk it up to whatever you want. But at the end of the day, there was stuff that we could have done better. We just have to get back out there and perfect it so it doesn't happen again."
Highlands plays Covington Holmes at Tower Park on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Cooper 175, Highlands 193:
Highlands lost its first dual match of the season at Highlands Country Club.
The Bluebirds saw senior Ellie Rowland and junior KJ Toole lead the way with 41. Eighth grader Jenna Richey followed with 52 and sophomore Aly Welch shot 59 to finish the scoring.
Freshman Bailey Markus and junior Helen Helbauer also golfed in the event for the Bluebirds. Markus shot 60 and Helbauer 64.
Highlands does not play again until Saturday in the Grant County Invitational. Tee time at Eagle Creek Golf Course in Dry Ridge is 1 p.m.