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Prep Sports Report: Top volleyball programs resume rivalry in Playing for a Purpose charity matches

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Northern Kentucky’s top two high school volleyball programs will face off Friday when Notre Dame takes on St. Henry in the 15th annual Playing for a Purpose charity triple-header at Boone County High School.

Notre Dame players try to block a shot at the net by Anna Guard of St. Henry during last year’s Playing for a Purpose varsity match. (File photo by Bob Jackson)

There will be a freshman match at 4:45 p.m. followed by junior varsity at 6 p.m. and varsity at 7:45 p.m. Both schools have been selling t-shirts with proceeds from those sales and the three matches going to the I Have Wings Foundation that supports breast cancer research and awareness.

Notre Dame won state tournaments in 2020 and 2022 and St. Henry was the 2021 state champion. In the last statewide coaches poll, Notre Dame (17-1) was No. 3 and St. Henry (22-7) was No. 7. 

Earlier this month, Notre Dame defeated St. Henry, 2-1, at the Louisville Invitational Volleyball Tournament. The set scores were 25-21, 19-25 and 25-19.

Over the last 10 seasons, Notre Dame has claimed seven 9th Region championships and St. Henry took the other three. The teams faced each other in the region final six times during that 10-year span.

This season, Notre Dame is averaging 12.5 kills and 14.3 digs per set compared to St. Henry’s 11.5 kills and 15.6 digs. The kill leaders for St. Henry are seniors Alivia Skidmore and Anna Guard with more than 200 each. Notre Dame’s top two are junior Ava Tilden with 169 and sophomore Grace Portwood with 168.

Cooper enters football seeding game with some of state’s top players

Cooper’s football team enters its first Class 5A district seeding game against Highlands on Friday with one of the best passing combinations in the state and one of its top college prospects.

Austin Alexander

Junior linebacker and defensive end Austin Alexander received scholarship offers from Notre Dame and Wisconsin over the past few weeks. His list of Division I college suitors also includes Kentucky, Louisville, Purdue, Illinois, North Carolina and Virginia.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound nephew of former pro football player Shaun Alexander had 35 tackles and eight sacks in the first five games for Cooper. He’s one of the reasons the Jaguars are allowing just 11.2 points per game.

Cooper’s passing attack features sophomore quarterback Cam O’Hara, who recently received a scholarship offer from Kentucky. He is averaging 249 passing yards per game that ranks ninth in the state.

O’Hara’s favorite target has been junior Isaiah Johnson, who is averaging 113 receiving yards per game that ranks seventh in the state. He leads his team in scoring with nine touchdowns.

The other district seeding games on Friday’s schedule are Boone County at Dixie Heights and Conner at Scott in Class 5A, Gallatin County at Beechwood and Walton-Verona at Bracken County in Class 2A and Holmes at Covington Catholic in Class 4A.

NewCath boys will face familiar foe in All “A” Classic state soccer

Newport Central Catholic will face a familiar opponent in the opening round of the All “A” Classic boys state soccer tournament on Saturday when the Thoroughbreds take on Murray in a 3 p.m. match at Louisville Collegiate.

Ryan Desmond

The last two NewCath teams that made it to the small school state tournament in 2022 and 2018 knocked off Murray in the first round and lost in the semifinals. The Thoroughbreds also went 1-1 in their first trip to the state tournament in 2016.

NewCath (13-3) and Murray (14-3) have both won five in a row. The Thoroughbreds had a 43-14 goal differential over their 16 opponents with senior midfielder Ryan Desmond as the team’s scoring leader and senior goalkeeper Mason McCloskey guarding the net. 

Desmond, who was named second-team all-state last season, had five goals and two assists in the team’s last five wins. His season totals are now 14 goals and seven assists for 35 points.   

The first-round matches in the All “A” Classic girls state soccer tournament on Saturday include Walton-Verona vs. Lexington Sayre at 11 a.m. at Louisville Collegiate and St. Henry vs. Middlesboro at 11 a.m. at Louisville Assumption. This is the first time St. Henry’s girls made it to the state tournament since winning the 2019 championship trophy.


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