Alle-Kiski Valley notebook: ‘Competitive’ start for Highlands volleyball reboot

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Thursday, October 3, 2019 | 5:58 PM


When the Highlands girls volleyball program returned last month after a three-year hiatus, 68 players came to tryouts.

New coach Caroline Bain, an Oakland Catholic grad and former player at Robert Morris, was amazed at the amount of interest.

Five seniors and 22 others formed the team that began a six-game exhibition schedule against Carrick on Wednesday in front of a packed gym at Highlands High School.

The Golden Rams varsity lost, 3-1, and the JV lost, 2-0, but Bain said she saw fight, determination and improvement in her players from the start of practices. A majority of the players, she said, had no prior volleyball experience.

“This was their first time actually playing against an opponent, and I thought they did great,” said Bain, 20, a Lower Burrell resident who is a student at Duquesne. “Every set was competitive. From the time they started to now, they are totally different players. It was great to see.”

Highlands returns to action Friday at 1:30 p.m. at St. Joseph and travels to West Mifflin on Monday. The next matches at Highlands High School are against West Mifflin on Oct. 14 and Apollo-Ridge on Oct. 16.

Bain said the program hopes to return as full member of the WPIAL next fall.

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Record kick

Plum junior Reed Martin is known his prowess at wide receiver and defensive back.

Last Friday, in a 47-17 loss at Penn-Trafford, he showed off his leg strength.

Martin kicked a 47-yard field goal to get the Mustangs on the board in the second quarter. The kick set a Warriors Stadium record. The previous mark of 41 yards had stood since 1980.

Martin’s kick also is the third longest in the history of Plum football. Jake Chapla’s 51-yarder against Connellsville in 2014 set the standard.

Mustangs alum Pat McAfee, who went on to star in the NFL as a kicker and punter with the Indianapolis Colts, is second on the list with a 48-yarder in 2003.

Plum coach Matt Morgan said he is blessed to have those on his roster with the kicking abilities of both Martin and senior Tyler Kolankowski, also the leading scorer for the undefeated Plum boys soccer team.

Plum, 2-4 overall, hosts a nonconference game Friday against Weir, W.Va.

•••

Southern comfort

The Riverview cross country teams are heading south this weekend.

The Raiders will run at Saturday’s New World Fall Spectacular Invitational in Jacksonville, Fla.

Coach Palma Ostrowski said the teams plan an out-of-state trip every other year. Past locales include Washington, D.C., Virginia, Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Colorado.

“We have found that going out of state really energizes the kids for the rest of the season,” Ostrowski said.

“We wanted to again challenge ourselves and create special memories. There are 33 teams, so it’s a big meet similar to the total number of runners at (the PIAA meet). It’s a good prep meet should we be fortunate enough to qualify (for states) again.”

Ostrowski said many of the teams will be from Florida’s largest classification.

“It’s nice to have one race a year where nobody knows you and there is no pressure,” she said. “They just get to enjoy the racing.”

The Riverview boys wrapped up the Division II, Section 1 championship Tuesday. It is their third title in five years in the Class A/AA combined format. The girls finished runner-up to Knoch in the section standings.

•••

Football all-stars

Burrell senior Seth Fischbach and Freeport senior Ricky Hunter are focused on helping their teams in the drive for the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

But when the season is over, they will have an all-star opportunity in Florida.

Fischbach and Hunter will be recognized before next week’s Freeport-Burrell clash for their selection to the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl on Jan. 4 in Tampa, Fla.

Game officials will be on hand to present them their game jerseys.

Fischbach, at wide receiver, and Hunter, at kicker, attended a Blue-Grey prospect combine at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium in late March.

Coaches, scouts and officials from the bowl game evaluated more than 100 players from all throughout the region.

Fischbach and Hunter fared well at the combine and drew the attention of bowl officials who invited both to play for the North team in the annual game at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

The all-star series began with a single game in 2013 and has grown to a four-game event each January. Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes played in the 2014 game.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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