After being an all-conference selection last year, Katherine Kennedy is back to lead a Hough team looking to improve on a 17-11 inaugural season.
"I just want to pick it up right where I left off last year," the senior said.
Coach Sandi Skidmore said Kennedy was a consistent player for her Huskies, showing a lot of determination and dedication for the team.
"She's hardcore on the court," said Skidmore.
Although the right hitter is relatively small for her position, at 5-foot-8, she makes up for that by being a self-described "scrappy" player.
"I like to get after it," said Kennedy. "I try to be aggressive with my serves and my hits."
After seeing limited time for the North Mecklenburg varsity volleyball team as a sophomore, Skidmore said she noticed last year that Kennedy was more focused on the court, hungrier to make a contribution for her new team.
Kennedy is a leader on and off the court, being Hough's student body president and showing the way for her team with her play and her encouragement.
Skidmore added that Kennedy isn't fond of making mistakes on the court, but instead of letting that get to her head, she channels that as motivation to play better. That sort of attitude, said Skidmore, can make a difference on a team.
Returning all of its starters from last season, when they reached the third round of the 4A playoffs, the Huskies are among the favorites to win the I-Meck title. Because of that, Kennedy was eager to get back to the court
"We don't have to go back and readjust," she said. "We can just keep moving forward."
The team's familiarity is already being felt on the court, said Skidmore, as her players are more talkative and trusting.
"Having one year under our belt and not having had any seniors was really a good thing," said Skidmore. "I think we're playing better already this year."
Kennedy agreed, explaining that her teammates complement each other well.
"We have a number of great players," the 17-year-old said. "We don't have that one outstanding player - everyone is consistent so we play well together."
Kennedy will have help from all-conference setter Nikki Hero and outside hitter Kaylin Overcash. Skidmore said the seniors, like the rest of the team, have shown improvement in the offseason.
Sophomore Julia Brown, a middle blocker, has impressed Skidmore so far this year.
"Once everything clicks with her, she's going to be a dominant player," the coach said.
Kennedy has high aspirations for Hough, including making a run at a state title.
"It definitely isn't something that will be easy and we'll have to work at it, but it's possible," she said.
Skidmore said for the Huskies to have a good year they're going to have to play as a team, not allowing adversity get to them.
"We can't break down and play as individuals," she said.
If Hough can do that, Kennedy thinks they can cause a lot of trouble in the I-Meck and beyond.
"When we keep up our momentum, it's hard to stop us," she said.