Home Local Sports All-County middle school 1st, 2nd team volleyball rosters announced

All-County middle school 1st, 2nd team volleyball rosters announced

All-County 1st Team (left to right): Madisen Jackson, Kaylee Connor, Riley McDonald, Kenley Smith, Addison Butler and Madyson Cloninger. (Deon Cranford)

Middle school volleyball brought some excitement to Richmond County during the 2022 season.  

The four Richmond County middle schools went a combined 20-11 against outside opponents with conference tournament champion Anson Blue and regular season winner Sandy Grove accounting for 9 of the 11 losses.  

The local programs even had their moments against the top two teams as Hamlet Middle managed a 5-set win over Anson Blue during the regular season and Rockingham Middle came up just short in a 5-set loss to Sandy Grove in the tournament semi-finals.

The highlight of the season was Ellerbe Middle.  After going winless last season, the Lady Wildcats went 9-3 and swept their Richmond County counterparts in the first three matches of the season. They earned the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and advanced to the semi-finals where they lost a close, hard-fought road match to eventual champion Anson Blue.

Cordova Middle finished the season 3-7, but also made several opponents work for every set win. The Lady Cavaliers competed in many of their matches this season with just a 7-player roster.  After they defeated Anson Orange in their season opener, they managed to force Ellerbe into a 5-set match. Later they would rebound from an 0-2 start against Carver to earn a huge 3-2 home victory.

With all of the highs and lows of the season now over, the Richmond Observer is proud to release its selections for the 2022 middle school all-county volleyball team.  

The “Player of the Year” honor goes to Ellerbe Middle’s Kenley Smith. Joining Smith on the all-county first team are teammates Kaylee Conner and Madyson Cloninger, Rockingham Middle’s Addison Butler and Madisen Jackson and Hamlet Middle’s Riley McDonald.

On the all-county second team roster are Hamlet Middle’s Aimee Lynn Dobson and Kalynn McCormick, Ellerbe Middle’s Lillian Hill and ZyRihanna Robinson, Rockingham’s Haley Singleton and Cordova’s Madison Hancock.

Note: Players were selected based on media observations and statistics, as well as notes and comments provided throughout the season by the coaches. Using that information, a preliminary list was created at the end of the season and sent to the coaches who made a few modifications. Player of the year nominations were received from the coaches and selected by the Richmond Observer.

First Team

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kenley Smith (Ellerbe Middle) – A true leader on the court, Smith was always in the conversation as one of the county’s best players.  Ellerbe Middle coach Jonathan Chavez took every opportunity to praise his team’s captain for both her athleticism and her leadership.  Smith was a star from the serving area tallying over a hundred aces and recording a season high 17 aces on 28 successful serves in Ellerbe’s tournament win over Anson Orange.  She was never afraid to get in front of line drive serves and spikes to keep the ball in play.  On the court she always encouraged her team to pass, communicate and set up shot opportunities rather than send the ball back over the net at any given opportunity.  Chavez often handed over timeout conversation duties to Smith for morale.  While she was in good company among some other great athletes in the county, Smith is definitely deserving of the player of the year honor.

Addison Butler (Rockingham Middle) – Butler served the Lady Rockets as both an exceptional athlete and morale booster.  Often caught dancing mid-set, encouraging teammates after a miscue or celebrating even the smallest feat, her jovial attitude kept the Lady Rockets’ spirits high even when the team was struggling.  She was a huge threat from the serving area and was one of the best front-line players in the county.

Kaylee Connor (Ellerbe Middle) – If you needed a clutch player, Connor was one of the best in the county.  On seven different occasions this year, Connor found herself in the serving area with her team trailing and left it with her team tied or ahead.  The Lady Wildcats closed out over a dozen sets this season with Connor serving and in all of those instances, she was able to string together multiple service points.  Her dig and passing skills were a huge asset to Ellerbe this season.

Madyson Cloninger (Ellerbe Middle) – Ellerbe found most of its success this season in its serving, but when the Lady Wildcats needed strong rally play, Cloninger was a big impact player.  Cloninger’s digging and passing abilities only got better as the season continued and some of her diving digs were highlight reel worthy.  The unselfish eighth grader often set her teammates up with better shots even when the opportunity to return the ball presented itself.  She is a pretty solid server as well, but her speed and energy on the floor elevated her to all-county status.

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Madisen Jackson (Rockingham Middle) – Jackson is an all-around athlete and has shined in the Rockingham Middle gym as part of the school’s volleyball and basketball programs.  Her serving abilities have been dangerous this season as she strings together multiple service points at the start of almost every set.  Due to her difficult to manage serves, the Lady Rockets had double-digit leads on multiple occasions before their opponents even had an opportunity to serve.  Jackson’s blocking and spiking abilities also made her a very intimidating frontline player.

Riley McDonald (Hamlet Middle) – Anytime a Lady Red Rams managed to set up a shot for McDonald, it was likely that Hamlet would be adding a point to the scoreboard.  Her hard, line drive spikes would often bounce off of would-be diggers and sail out of bounds.  Her fearlessness and athleticism was always on show and if her team needed her to carry them, she did.  From the serving area, her bullets were difficult to manage, often sailing just inches above the net allowing her to string together aces on multiple occasions.

Second Team

Left to right: ZyRihanna Robinson, Haley Singleton, Kalynn McCormick, Madison Hancock, Aimee Lynn Dobson and Lillian Hill.

Aimee Lynn Dobson (Hamlet Middle) – Nobody got fired up on the court quite like Dobson.  Her energy was always on show and her big play abilities always made her a threat.  She chased the ball far out of bounds on several occasions to keep plays alive that most would have given up on.  She was a block and kill threat at the net, but her setting, digging and passing were a huge asset to Lady Red Rams this season.

Madison Hancock (Cordova Middle) – Hancock was one of few players that received an all-county nomination nod from another school, and it’s no surprise why.  Her passing and digging abilities kept the Lady Cavaliers alive in sets many times this season and she was a catalyst in each of Cordova’s comeback bids.  She was such a threat that you could hear opposing coaches instructing their players to hit the ball away from her.

Lillian Hill (Ellerbe Middle) – On one rally in Ellerbe’s 4-set victory over Hamlet, Hill dropped to the ground for an impressive dig.  While trying to get to her feet, the ball was hit at her again and the off-balanced Hill successfully returned it.  Before she could get set, a teammate hit the ball into the net, and Hill dove again to keep the ball from touching the floor as it rolled out of the net.  Ellerbe wound up winning that point.  That’s just the kind of effort that the Lady Wildcats got from Hill all season.

Kalynn McCormick (Hamlet Middle) – When drafting this list, both of Hamlet’s coaches lobbied to get McCormick onto it.  McCormick’s kills and digs stood out on each of Hamlet Middle’s stat sheets this season.  The dependable Lady Red Ram committed few hitting errors and when McCormick yelled, “I got it,” she had it.  She led the team in digs, kills and aces in the regular season finale at Cordova and her contributions gave them a fighting chance in both meetings with Rockingham.

ZyRihanna Robinson (Ellerbe Middle) – Robinson was a quiet but integral part of the Lady Wildcats’ success this season.  Numerous rallies were extended this season thanks to the digging and passing efforts of Robinson.  She unselfishly and skillfully set her teammates up for success with many of Ellerbe’s kill attempts benefiting from an assist from Robinson.  

Haley Singleton (Rockingham Middle) – Singleton, like most on the Rockingham team, is a solid server, but she was much more fun to watch at the net.  She was a dependable hitter with few errors and when the opportunity for a hard kill presented itself, she often managed to find an empty piece of real estate to hit the ball into.  Singleton’s growth as a passer was also very evident as the season progressed.

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