CORNELIUS As it did a year ago, the Hough volleyball team entered postseason play Saturday at home against Providence following a dominant regular season.
Hough (28-1, 14-0) swept the Panthers 3-0 to move on to the second round, but it didn’t come easily. Providence (16-8, 11-3) fell 25-20 and 25-21 in the first and second games before losing a big lead in a 25-23 loss in the decisive third game.
The Panthers, who had to replace six starters from a year ago, led 17-9 and 23-20 in game three, but couldn’t quite force a fourth game.
“They competed, especially in that third game,” Providence coach Amanda McGowan said. “It’s tough when you’re down 2-0 to that good of a team. It shows the character that our girls have and the determination and work ethic that they have.”
Hough coach Sandi Skidmore said she valued the adversity her team encountered in game three.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Skidmore said. “This is good because the last three years, it’s been a cakewalk. It’s not going to get any easier.”
The Huskies, who went undefeated in conference play for the second consecutive year, began the season with a couple of goals.
Saturday’s playoff-opening win marked the Huskies’ first step toward the state title that eluded them a season ago, when Hough lost to Ardrey Kell in the state semifinals.
“Our first goal actually was to not lose any conference games,” Skidmore said. “The second one was to win the conference, and then win the tournament. Now, we’re just going game by game. It’s tough. We’re hungry for that [state championship] because we got right there and didn’t get to taste it.”
Huskies outside hitter Julia Brown, a 6-foot-1 N.C. State commit, said she is embracing the pressure that will mount as her team advances.
“All season, obviously we have a lot of intensity,” Brown said. “But now it’s really go time because it’s one-and-done. If you lose, you’re out, and none of us want to do that.”
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