Spring Sports Preview

Charles Chard

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Springing into new sports


Spring is coming and you know what that means, another season full of Birds action.  The spring sports include baseball, softball, boys’ and girls’ tennis, and boys’ and girls’ track.


Starting off spring sports is baseball, which last season went out with 23 wins, 14 loses, and 0 ties with the leadership of Head Coach Jeremy Baoini, who took over as head coach in between the years of 08 and 09. Baseball is one of the most difficult sports to predict how the season would turn out to be, and Head Coach Baoini agrees by saying, “It is very difficult to predict a high school baseball season. We have a very challenging schedule but the guys are up to the task. Every kid that is not in a winter sport has been working hard this preseason to prepare.” The challenges that all sports have are who they are competing against and what they bring to the table even before the start of the game. In all sports including baseball make changes throughout the years, that would include the loss of players, or the transition of coaches, but Baoini stated, “We really don’t make a lot of wholesale changes but we really work hard to improve on certain things from previous years. This year we are really focusing on intent.” Even when there is little to no changes to a sports team, doesn’t mean the changes to the improvement of their players are essential. The expectations of any sports team depends on peoples’ expectation for that team, it’s all depending on the option of that person of that sports team, and this is what Baoini is expecting fans to see and what he himself still learning, “This may be the deepest the baseball program has been in our nine seasons. We are still learning about some of the freshman but the sophomore through senior class is extremely talented. We are fully prepared to use our regular season as a way to let guys get comfortable in their respective role.  They all just want to be a part of a successful program.” The expectations coaches have for their upperclassman players are already known, but the expectations of the new players, and freshman are yet to be learned. The losing of star players on any sports team over the years are expected, but those who need to step up and fill those roles and become greater than they expected, and Head Coach Baoini said this about the loss of some star players and how those are going to step up and fill those roles, “We lost a few really good baseball players from last season but are excited about the possibility of some of the younger guys stepping in and taking over those roles. The depth of this group will really show when we have some guys that are able to jump right in and not skip a beat.” Those who can step up into the roles of those that the team lost are essential to showing how much talent a team has when the time is right for them to show their true potential. Those who are expected to take up the role of leader in any sport is important to have, so the team can come together as one unit, and Head Coach Jeremy Baoini stated his thoughts the leadership role and what in Highlands baseball team, “Our senior class has the chance to be the most successful baseball class in HHS history. What is great about this senior class is that we have a good mix of kids that can be vocal leaders, and others that will simply lead by example. This senior class has seen a lot of good baseball and they know what it takes to work hard to achieve a goal.” Head Coach Baoini sees Highlands baseball seniors as one of the best and they are made up of great leaders in many forms.


The next sport to represent Highlands in spring sports is Softball, having finished last season with 20 wins, 12 loses, and 0 ties, lead by no one other than Head Coach Rob Coffey. Softball is another top sport at Highlands, and has shown why they are many times, and is another sport hard to anticipate their seasons outcomes, and this is what Head Coach Rob Coffey had to say, “We lost a lot of experience, but we also have created a lot of depth over the years. I expect this group to step up and following in the footsteps of the class in front of them. I predict we will be very competitive in the region and push to win back to back titles.” The anticipation of this season of Highlands softball depends on who is predicting the season, either it’s the coach, player, or fans that predict something out of the season. Changes to any sport gets that sport to adapt and come out with everything they got, and this is what Head Coach Coffey had to say about the changes that has happened, “We have made many changes to adapt to our personal. We are working on changing our strategy at the plate to ensure we are putting the ball in play and making things happen with our speed. We are also making some defensive adjustment to fill in spot relinquished by our graduating class.” The changes of a sports team are important for the coaches and player to be able to adapt to those changes and make them for the better. The expectations of any season of any sport be different relying on the one stating those expectations, and this is what Head Coach Coffey says the fans of Highlands softball will be expected to see this season, “You should see a very competitive, hungry team. Hungry to prove this new group can win, just like the groups ahead of them. The ladies being counted on this year are kids that have been in the system a long time and they are ready for their turn.” The expectations of the season seem to be one of the most aggressive and longing seasons of the History of Highlands. To lose certain players that are essential to the play by play of the game, and how they lost 4 seniors to graduation last year, and they were the key to their success. However, they still have key players this year and are impacting the team to successful past seasons and are returning this season filling the leadership roles of Highlands softball. The expectations of who will fill the leadership role would be Brooke Dill, Josie Daley, Ella Grimm, and Rachel Gabbard, and there are many others expected to step up as well.


The third sport to represent Highlands in spring sports is Boys’ and Girls’ Tennis, lead by their head coach, Kris Laskey. The girls’ tennis team are reigning 10th region champions, and 3 starters from 2016 lineup are returning this season, so over half of the starters are fairly new to the daily lineup from last season. The biggest change to girls’ tennis is that 4 seniors graduated last year, and they will need to bring JV and newer players to take important roles in the starting lineup this season. The expectations of this season of girl tennis that that their schedule is full of teams in and outside Highlands region, and they will rotate the singles and doubles lineup early in the season to determine the final 6 going into post season. The loss of 4 seniors graduating, however, Head Coach Kris Laskey will be looking at the 3 returning players from the 2016 team. Sophomores, Mia Smith and Elizabeth Schwalbach, and junior, Brooke Hodory were apart of last year’s team that reached the final 4 at state, and Laskey expects seniors, Jana and Jenna Riffe to give their part this spring. Those who are expected to take up the leadership roles are Jana and Jenna Riffe, who are the captains this season, and Head Coach Laskey states they have been leaders off the court with their leadership skills and working on team unity, but they will need to lead by example on the court as they are expected to see more playing time. The boys’ tennis team is also reigning 10th region champions, and 5 starters from last season lineup are returning, and Head Coach Kris Laskey believes it will be nice to have a good amount of the team be returning starter from last year. The changes of this seasons boys’ tennis is that they will be working on doubles combinations from the start, and will expect to get some younger, and newer players more opportunities to fill the 6th and 7th slot. The expectation of the boys are to have some great competition both in the northern Kentucky area, as well as the hope of improvement on their Win-Lose percentage, and to get the boys’ post season lineup established by the middle of April. The loss of 2 senior graduating, but 6 strong and solid varsity players returning. The 6 returning varsity players are those counted on for a successful varsity season. The expected leaders of the boys’ tennis team would be senior, Jeffrey Schenk as captain and who is certainly a leader on and off the court. Schenk is known to represent Highlands in a positive way every match he plays.


The fourth and final sport to represent Highlands in spring sports is Boys’ and Girls’ Track, which boys’ is led by their head coach, Ryan Leopold, and girls lead by Head Coach Brian Alessandro. Starting off with girls’ track, the predictions of this season is that Highlands girls will be in the top three at state as a team, and that they need to figure out how to balance all their schedules while staying in tip-top shape the whole season. Girls’ track is very consistent and Head Coach Alessandro runs things the same from middle to high school, and consistency is what makes their program constantly one of the top in the state. The expectations of the girls this season is to improve throughout the season and run well at the state meet, and the goal is always to win state, but competing their best and work hard to reach their main goal. Girls’ track lost a lot of senior from last season, Highlands record shot put and discus thrower, several sprinters, and a few distance runners really hurt their points not having them on their team this season. That being said, there are many underclassmen ready to fill in where the gaps are from last season. The expectations of leadership is that of the solid senior class that Alessandro looks at collectively to bring unity and leadership to the girls track team. Next up is boys’ track, the anticipation of the team is that the boys will be in the top three as a team at state, and having extremely fast runners, and throughout work with the difficult schedule, while remaining in top condition throughout the whole season. There are little to no changes boys’ track, other than losing a hand full of seniors that graduated last year, the boys’ track team works the same to get what needs to be done for track, and how Head Coach Ryan Leopold leads Highlands boys’ track to the top every season. The expectations of this season of boys’ track is to improve before and during the season, and their main goal to come out on top and win a state title, and Leopold believes that anything is possible as long a you work for it. The loss of the many seniors that graduated hurt boys’ track, one being shot put thrower, Tyler Robinson, and it will take a lot of work to replace those who the boys’ track team lost. The expectations of those to lead the track team to a state title will most likely be the senior class, and also sophomore Liam Ehrman, who is one of the fastest runners on this year’s boys’ track team.


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Spring Sports Preview