CORNELIUS – Facebook. Instagram. Twitter.
Julia Brown and her Hough High volleyball teammates used a social media blitz to pump up campus excitement for their semifinal match Oct. 29 against Mount Tabor.
“We wanted everybody to come out,” said Brown, a senior outside hitter. “They did, and the atmosphere was amazing. It was the best crowd we’ve had in my four years here.”
The same can be said for the volleyball team.
Hough beat Mount Tabor 25-14, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16 to win the N.C. 4A Western Regional championship. The Huskies (32-1) advanced to the 4A state championship match against Wakefield at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at N.C. State.
Hough’s gym in the semifinal was a raucous, steamy caldron of happiness. Huskies fans roared on every point, and the players seemed to feed off the enthusiasm. A few students, preferring to stand, spilled out in the early stages but were shooed back into their seats by school officials. It didn’t make a dent in the noise.
The victory avenged Hough’s lone loss of the season. The Huskies lost 3-2 to Mount Tabor in a three-team match Oct. 5.
Every element of Hough’s attack was sharp in the semifinal. Brown and middle hitter Jazmine Lindor were dominant at the net. Setter Jennifer Hart sent crisp passes in all directions. Morgan Fisher and Hailey Brotze were stalwarts on the back line, and coach Sandi Skidmore rotated in players who all contributed.
The Huskies looked and played like a fine-tuned machine.
“We have 16 players on this team that can play,” Hart said.
Hough methodically pulled ahead in the first game after it was tied at 7. Brown’s two-handed push shot zipped off the forearm of Mount Tabor’s libero for the game-winning point.
“It was very important to win the first game,” said Brown, an N.C. State signee. “That’s what starts it off and shows what we have.”
Mount Tabor (25-4) jumped to a 7-4 lead in the second game, but Hough rallied to tie it at 15. Brotze’s service ace gave Hough an 18-17 lead, and the Huskies reeled off the next four points to make it 22-17. Lindor scored on a powerful block and Brown’s kill down the middle on the 25th point gave Hough a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match.
“We got the momentum in the first game, which made us more relaxed in the second and third games,” Skidmore said. “We didn’t want to fall behind.”
The third game reminded the Hough crowd that Mount Tabor wouldn’t be a pushover. The Spartans sharpened their net game and passing, turning a 13-12 lead into an 18-13 margin. They closed out the game to cut Hough’s lead to 2-1.
Hough jumped to a 7-1 lead in the fourth game. The Huskies bumped the lead to 11-2, but Mount Tabor fought back to make it 16-14. Hough regained control with three straight points – a Mount Tabor serve into the net, a Lindor kill at the net and Haley Kain’s service ace.
A couple minutes later, Mount Tabor’s last shot sailed wide and Hough’s players piled onto each other in celebration.
“This was exciting,” Hart said. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Lake Norman Charter falls in N.C. 2A semifinal
Lake Norman Charter lost to visiting Hendersonville 26-24, 18-25, 23-25,17-25 in the N.C. 2A semifinals Oct. 29. The Knights finished 22-3 and were 14-0 en route to winning the Big South 2A/3A conference title. Top players in the semifinal were Julie Newell (11 kills, 17 digs), Danielle Reed (11 kills, 13 digs), Amy Queen (17 digs) and Jessi Harris (three aces).