by Cliff Mehrtens

CHARLOTTE – The end was swift and uncharacteristic for Hough High’s volleyball team.

The Huskies were swept by host Ardrey Kell 25-14, 25-14, 25-18 in the N.C. 4A semifinals Oct. 30 in a match coach Sandi Skidmore called “probably the worst we played all year.”

Hough (35-3) had a 24-match winning streak snapped. The Huskies hadn’t lost since Sept. 5.

“I don’t know, I guess we were scared,” Skidmore said. “Nerves maybe. I just told them to settle down and play their game. And they didn’t. Our passing is usually the best part of our game and we didn’t get that tonight.”

Ardrey Kell (30-1) avenged a 3-2 loss to Hough on Oct. 6, and advanced to the 4A championship match Nov. 3 against Leesville Road High at N.C. State.

The match lasted just more than an hour.

Hough fell behind early in the first game and didn’t recover, as Ardrey Kell scored the first five points. The Huskies seemed to improve early in the second game and took a 3-2 lead. Ardrey Kell tied the score at 4 and it quickly turned into a 13-5 Ardrey Kell lead as Hough misfired on several shots, had others blocked and didn’t pass sharply.

The third game was similar. Hough trailed only 5-4, but Ardrey Kell won 10 of the next 12 points to take a 15-6 lead. Hough rallied late with three straight points to stave off match point, including two kills by Julia Brown, but lost 25-18.

Ardrey Kell clinched it on Rachel Eppley’s smash at the net on match point.

The Ardrey Kell student section reminded Hough fans of the reversal from the first meeting by chanting “Not like last time, not like last time.”

“I don’t think we gave them our best game, and that’s disappointing,” Skidmore said. “We had to lay it all on the line tonight and we didn’t.”

Hough had roared through the first four rounds of the playoffs, winning by 3-0 scores against East Forsyth, Indian Trail Sun Valley, Watauga and Skyland Roberson.

Hough also dominated the I-MECK 4A conference by winning all 14 league matches.

A silver lining for Hough – there are no seniors on the roster, so the entire squad should return intact next season.

LN Charter eliminated on road

Hendersonville High eliminated visiting Lake Norman Charter 25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20 in the N.C. 1A volleyball semifinals Oct. 30.

The Knights finished 24-4 and had playoff victories against Chatham Central, North Stokes, East Surry and Raleigh Bishop McGuinness to reach the semifinal. Lake Norman Charter was the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference champion.

Hendersonville senior Hailey Cook had 23 kills and nine service aces, helping the Bearcats (20-6) advance to the 1A championship match Nov. 3 against Raleigh Charter at N.C. State.