CHARLOTTE – The Ardrey Kell volleyball program is no stranger to success on the court, but they will be underdogs when they take on Green Hope at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9 for the NCHSAA 4A title.
The Knights (25-5 overall) have already won one title — in 2012 — under legendary coach Zoe Bell, but this season their run seemed almost improbable after getting shutout by rival Providence in their season finale 3-0, a loss which cost them a shot at the conference title and led to the season sweep for the Panthers after they won 3-1 earlier.
But the Knights got the ultimate revenge. After knocking off Davie 3-1 in the opening round, the Knights returned the favor and shutout Providence 3-0 in the second round.
Since, they’ve earned a 3-0 win over West Forsyth and took down Northwest Guilford in the semifinals to reach the third title game in school history.
Green Hope will represent the East in the state championship game, and they are certainly no stranger to big games and championship expectations.
The Falcons have played in and won each of the past three state championships.
This season, at 26-2, they are ranked No. 4 in www.MaxPreps.com’s Xcellent 25 rankings and have only lost twice, to nationally ranked Mater Dei (Calif.) and Assumption (Ky.), both of which are also members of the Xcellent 25.
The Falcons have won 16 straight since then and have only given up one set in their four playoff matches.
Green Hope: The Falcons are absolutely loaded with individual stars, but none bigger than Maryland commit Sydney Dowler. The senior setter has been named the state finals MVP in each of the Falcons three previous championships. She has been hurt this season some, but is back and playing well.
Dowler leads the team with 787 assists and has 134 digs, but has many attackers to go to.
Iowa State commit Alexis Engelbrecht is second on the team with 213 kills, but she’s a deadly attacker with a 52% kill percentage. Engelbrecht also leads the team with 57 blocks and the senior has put up 77 digs.
Senior Grace Patrick (272 kills) leads the Falcons at the net, but Annie Elvin (204 kills and a team-high 38 aces) and East Carolina commit Priscilla Jones (160 kills and 39 blocks) offer just some of the options.
Defensively, Taylor Nomansom (team-best 427 digs) is a standout on the floor.
Ardrey Kell: The Knights have plenty of stars of their own.
Sophomore attacker Alexis Shelton leads the team in kills with 246 and attacks at a 41% success rate. Shelton also has 124 kills, 54 aces and 33 blocks.
East Carolina commit Sania McCoy leads the team with 190 digs and also is second on the team in kills (215) and third in aces (51).
Senior Bridget Elmore has long been a fixture on the team. She leads the team with 50 blocks and is third with 144 kills.
Senior Sydney Dorner also gets in on the Knights attack and has recorded 124 kills.
Setter Mya Duncan, another senior on the Knights, puts it all together. Duncan has a team-best 732 assists and is second on the team with 186 digs.
Julia Haynes, Katie Keough and freshman Giovana Salinas have also stood out.
Zoe Bell, Ardrey Kell: The Knights’ legendary coach has been at the helm for 29 years and has won nearly 700 volleyball matches. Bell has won 14 conference championships during her career that also includes stops at Providence and Charlotte Latin and her teams have won five NCHSAA titles in six attempts. This is her seventh trip to a state championship game.
Karl Redelfs, Green Hope: Redelfs is originally from Ethiopia, but his family moved to Charlotte before he graduated from Parkwood High in 2005. He played club volleyball while attending the University of North Carolina and began his coaching career at Green Hope in 2010. Since, his teams have gone 181-40 in his time at the school, but the Falcons have gone 87-4 during their four-year fun of dominance.