ROCKINGHAM – Seventeen in 2017. Oh, how sweet it is.
The Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team won its program-best seventeenth win of the season Thursday. In historic fashion, the Lady Raiders swept Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Jack Britt High School 3-0, and remained undefeated on the season.
Richmond won 25-15, 25-18 and 25-12, and looked primed and ready from the start.
“It feels really good to make history, especially at home,” head coach Shellie Wimpey said. “The girls are really excited about it. One thing we definitely have going for us is our team chemistry. These girls are a family, they love each other. That really shows on the court, and it’s helped us break the record tonight.”
In what has been a season to remember, Richmond (17-0, 10-0 SAC) began with the single goal in mind of repeating as SAC champions. And to this point, after defeating the Lady Buccaneers (11-6, 5-5 SAC), and barring a complete collapse, the Lady Raiders will obtain that goal, as they currently lead SAC play by 3.5 games over Scotland and Pinecrest high schools.
But because of the season’s continued successes, Wimpey has shifted her team’s focus to finishing the season a perfect 22-0. And the Lady Raiders are hungry to get past the second round of the state playoffs, which has served as the stopping point of the last two seasons.
“Winning 17 in a row is great,” Wimpey said smiling. “But our new goal is 22-0. And we want to get over the hump of the second round of the playoffs. We have a team this year that can make a legitimate run in the playoffs.”
The Lady Raiders’ best statistical game of the night was the first set, as they tallied 11 team kills and 17 digs. Rolling out to a quick lead, senior middle hitter Owen Bowers had a game-high five kills, while senior outside hitter Altman Griffin added four of her own. Bowers finished the night with 12 kills, two digs and two blocks; Griffin had nine kills, seven digs, three aces and two blocks.
Richmond continued to roll in the second game, but didn’t break away until the set was tied at 16. The Lady Raiders finished on a 9-2 run to go up two games to none. The set ended with a Griffin kill, followed by an error by the Lady Bucs following a Savannah Lampley serve. Lampley, who was recently named the Official Richmond County Athlete of the Week, finished the night with four kills, 10 digs and one block.
As the anticipation grew going into the third and final game, Richmond held Jack Britt to a match-low 12 points. Senior setter Mackenzie Webb dished out nine of her 29 total assists on the night, while also picking up five of her eight total digs. The set began with a 12-4 Richmond run, and the Lady Raiders closed it with a 10-1 run.
Offensively, Wimpey acknowledged that her players communicated well, and were able to find soft spots in Jack Britt’s defense. Richmond was more persistent in finding holes, and tapped the ball a lot to get it to fall between its opponents.
And then the moment of realization struck; history was made. Lampley was thrilled following the victory.
“It was such a great moment,” Lampley said of locking up the single-season wins record. “I love this team. We have been able to grow together (over the last two years), and now we have bragging rights because we’ve broken the record.”
Griffin, who has served as the team’s leader all year, realized the win is a big deal, but there is still a lot more left to accomplish as the state playoffs loom in the near future.
“It was great to win tonight, and it feels so good to break the record in my senior year,” Griffin noted. “But I think we need to remain positive with ourselves, and the team can’t get complacent.”
The junior varsity squad was also in action Wednesday, as they, too, swept the Lady Bucs. The Lady Raiders won in two, 25-11 and 25-17.
Head coach Ashleigh Larsen expressed how well her players played off of momentum.
“The girls played well tonight,” Larsen said. “They made some smart decisions offensively and showed how they’ve grown this season. They continued their momentum from Tuesday’s match (at Pinecrest).”
Freshman outside hitter Taylor Chappell had four kills and five digs, while sophomore outside hitter Madison Jordan added three kills and eight digs.
The Lady Raiders look to continue their quest to finish the season undefeated next week. In a busy week, they’ll host SAC opponent Hoke County High School Tuesday, October 3, and non-conference opponent West Montgomery High School Wednesday, October 4. They’ll wrap up the stretch on the road at SAC squad Lumberton High School Thursday, October 5. Conference games are set to begin with junior varsity at 6 p.m., followed by varsity at 7 p.m. West Montgomery’s match will begin at 5:30 p.m.