Strength in Numbers
by Staff Writer
by Cliff Mehrtens
Aristotle never played volleyball, but he’d probably like what’s going on with Hough High’s team.
The ancient Greek philosopher coined the phrase “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” a couple thousand years before volleyball was invented in 1895.
His description perfectly fits Hough’s team.
The Huskies don’t have a well-known star who dominates play. They’re not overly tall. Usually, they don’t intimidate anyone walking into a gym.
Until the ball goes into the air.
Hough is 8-1 overall and leads the I-MECK 4A conference with a 4-0 mark.
Coach Sandi Skidmore’s squad relies on depth, teamwork and hustle. Having no one star to rely on means the Huskies depend on everyone.
“I’ve got 14 players on the team, and anyone can play at any time,” Skidmore said. “They have to earn their spot this year. Sometimes when they’re seniors, they think they’re entitled. We had to knock that down a little bit. We’ve had discussions with the seniors about the season and what they needed to do to mold the younger kids.”
Hough’s players have responded well, knowing Skidmore will put the most effective team on the floor, regardless of what grade the players are in.
Having a balanced attack also makes it difficult for opponents to prepare for Hough. Four Huskies have 40 or more kills, led by Julia Brown’s 65, Kailyn Overcash’s 59 and Kat Kennedy’s 53.
Three Huskies have 10 or more service aces, led by Nikki Hero’s 19.
Three different Huskies have 20 or more digs, led by Paige Zartman’s 24.
Nicole Destefano (16 blocks) and Brown have been consistent forces at the net, and Hero’s steady hands as a setter have produced 198 assists.
“We all hit pretty well, and on defense we dig well,” said Overcash, a senior captain. “We don’t really have a premier player, but we all work well together.”
Hough’s first conference test was against North Mecklenburg last week. The Vikings are playing well under new coach Tarrah Johnson, who four years ago played for North Mecklenburg when Skidmore coached there.
Hough won the “teacher-vs.-student” match in straight sets – 25-19, 25-20 and 25-9 – on Sept. 7. The Huskies were scheduled to play for first place in I-MECK 4A in a match at Lake Norman (2-0 in conference) on Sept. 15.
Skidmore said her team also is benefiting from being a second-year squad. The newness and uncertainty of launching the program last season has faded.
“Not losing anybody (to graduation) was very helpful,” she said. “We had everybody back. Being a first-year school, we had a lot of players who hadn’t played together. We’re playing more as a team unit this year than last year.”
She had coached several of her current players as underclassmen at North Mecklenburg two years ago, so that familiarity worked for coach and players.
The Huskies went to a team camp last summer at Clemson, and Skidmore said the bond tightened during that experience.
She’s been coaching long enough to know that the team with the most individuals isn’t always the one that advances the farthest. It’s all about teamwork.
A few years ago, Skidmore led North Mecklenburg to the state 4A final four, with what she said “was not my most talented team, by any means. They just played together.”
This season’s squad mirrors those Vikings.
“We are not tall at all,” Skidmore said. “We are getting smarter. I like girls that like to play, and play hard for me.
“We’re still early in the season, but I can see that. They’re confident in each other, and that’s helping us, too. They understand their roles. I don’t really have any standouts on this team.”
Last season, the new Huskies made the state playoffs.
“This year I think we can do the same, or better,” Skidmore said. “A conference title is obviously our focus right now, and after that the state. But baby steps first.”