Sandi Skidmore was driving home from practice a few weeks ago when she almost made a wrong turn towards North Mecklenburg High.
For the last 11 years, it would have been the right turn, as Skidmore guided the Vikings' volleyball program to nine conference titles. She had 69 wins in the last three seasons.
But now, Skidmore is headed in a different direction as she takes on the same job at Hough High, where her main task will be to build the Huskies' volleyball program from scratch.
"This is an opportunity, to start my own program, that I just couldn't pass up," said Skidmore. "But at the same time, it wasn't easy for me to leave North Meck. I was disappointed that I was leaving at a time when we were doing so well."
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Skidmore led the Vikings to their best season in some time as North Meck made it to the 4A state semifinals before losing 3-2 to Ardrey Kell.
As Skidmore builds the Huskie volleyball program, she will have some familiar faces to help.
At least six former North Meck volleyball players will play varsity for the Huskies, most of whom spent time on the Vikings' JV team.
"It's nice to have some players that I have worked with a little," said Skidmore. "I know it will be a very challenging job, but I am excited about starting this program."
Skidmore will lean on former Vikings like juniors Nicole Destefano (middle), Kat Kennedy (outside), Kailyn Overcash (outside) and Paige Zartman (outside). All four players spent some time on last year's North Meck team that also won the I-Meck conference championship, the same league they will compete in this year.
Hough will also get two key players from Hopewell, Stephanie Filoti and Bailey Leonard.
The Huskies will also depend on new players to the area: former Langley High (Va.) star Nikki Hero and former Charlotte Catholic middle Justine Turley.
While the group comes from different schools, a lot of the players already know each other from club volleyball.
They also spent time together this summer when Hough attended team volleyball camp at South Carolina.
"We know that it will take us some time to get used to each other," said Skidmore. "But we look pretty good. Right now, I am just waiting to see who will emerge as a leader."
Skidmore says she might have to take a bigger leadership role early in the season while the team finds its identity. From there, she hopes to turn it over to the team, which will not have a senior on the roster.
"Juniors will have to be our seniors," said Skidmore.
With the planning, the summer workouts, the camps and the scrimmages now over, Skidmore said she's thrilled about Hough's first season.
"I'm excited about creating a new everything," said Skidmore. "We have a new gym, new uniforms, new traditions and a new team."
Skidmore and Hough kicked off their season yesterday, when the Huskies hosted CMS's other new high school, Rocky River (Lake Norman News went to print before the game).
The next big date comes Sept. 7, when Skidmore will make her first visit to North Meck as Hough's coach.
"I know it's going to be really weird and awkward when I go back," she said. "It was my home for a long time, so it will be a sad moment and an exciting moment at the same time."