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Prep Sports Report: Notre Dame opens volleyball season with 8-0 run led by two college recruits

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Notre Dame Academy’s volleyball team finished the first month of the season with an 8-0 record that included victories over perennial powers Louisville Sacred Heart and Louisville Mercy, two teams ranked among the top five in the state coaches poll.

Two of Notre Dame’s team leaders also made college commitments during August. Junior hitter Ava Tilden and junior libero Julia Grace have both accepted scholarship offers from Xavier University, according to Twitter posts.

Notre Dame libero Julia Grace gets one her 10 digs in win over Louisville Mercy. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

Tilden is the Pandas leading hitter with 82 kills in 25 sets for a 3.28 average. Grace has a team-high 88 digs in 25 sets for a 3.52 average. Last year, Tilden was the second-leading hitter on Notre Dame’s state championship team with 272 kills.

In the latest statewide coaches poll, Sacred Heart was No. 2, Notre Dame was No. 4 and Mercy was No. 5. That poll was posted a few days after Notre Dame defeated Sacred Heart, 3-2, on Aug. 24 in Louisville.

The Pandas had 21 blocks in that match. The  team leaders were juniors Riley McCloskey with six and Ella Goetz with five.

Last Thursday, Notre Dame won a home match against Mercy, 3-0, with another strong team effort. The kill leaders were sophomore Grace Portwood with 12 and Tilden with 10. Grace had 10 digs and sophomore Lizzy Larkin recorded 21 assists.

Ava Tilden

Notre Dame is among the teams that will compete in the Louisville Invitational Volleyball Tournament that starts Friday. The field includes Louisville Assumption and Lexington Paul Dunbar, the top two teams in the latest state coaches poll.

At last year’s state tournament, Notre Dame won a five-set match against Assumption in the semifinals and defeated Paul Dunbar, 3-0, in the championship final to claim its second state title in the last three years.

St. Henry, winner of the 2021 state tournament, is also in the Louisville Invitational Volleyball Tournament. The Crusaders have an 8-5 record after going 3-3 in the Nike Tournament of Champions last week. They were ranked No. 9 in the latest state poll.

On Wednesday, St. Henry will play Bellevue (6-5) at 7:30 p.m. and Beechwood (9-4) will take on Newport Central Catholic (4-11) at 6 p.m. in the semifinals of the 9th Region All “A” Classic at NewCath. The winners of those matches will meet in the championship final at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The annual regular season match between Notre Dame and St. Henry is set for Friday, Sept. 22. Proceeds from that match are donated to a local foundation that serves breast cancer patients.

Football teams celebrated for different reasons after Friday games

One streak continued and another one ended in Northern Kentucky high school football games played on Friday.

Beechwood extended its win streak to 13 games over two seasons when the Tigers pulled out a 49-48 win over Dixie Heights in a thrilling overtime battle.

Clay Hayden

Beechwood junior quarterback Clay Hayden threw seven touchdown passes in that game, including a 10-yard strike to Luke Erdman in overtime with Carson Lair kicking the extra point.

After Dixie Heights scored a touchdown on its overtime possession, the Colonels went for a two-point conversion and quarterback Armani Gregg was stopped short of the goal line.

The Bellevue Tigers celebrated a victory after 17 straight losses, including two forfeits, when they topped visiting Riverview East Academy of Ohio, 32-22, in a home game on Friday at Gilligan Stadium.

It was Bellevue’s first win since Sept 17, 2021, when it defeated Gallatin County, 36-6. The Tigers did not score in seven of their next 15 games before forfeiting two games at the end of last season due to a lack of players.

Bellevue’s new head coach Chad Montgomery has mostly sophomores on this year’s 28-player varsity roster. One of them is Jordan Pendleton, who scored three touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Friday’s long-awaited victory.

Top finishers in Ryle cross county races were same as last year

The top two finishers in the Ryle Invitational boys cross country race on Saturday were the same as last year with Ryle senior Tiger Bartlett crossing the line first and Campbell County junior Jonathan Christopher coming in second.

Bartlett’s winning time of 16:05 on the 5,000-meter course was 15 seconds faster than Christopher’s. Cooper sophomore Paul Van Laningham placed third and led the Jaguars to the boys team title.

Campbell County junior Olivia Holbrook won the girls race for the second consecutive year in 19:18. She was followed by Beechwood sophomore Lily Parke (19:44), who led the Tigers to the girls team title.

Last season, Beechwood won its first Class 1A state championship in girls cross country with Parke placing second in the race.

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