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Comeback Kids: Lady Raiders erase deficit to open SAC play with 5-set win over Southern Lee

ROSports File Photo: The Lady Raiders rallied to win in five sets to begin SAC play on Tuesday. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

SANFORD — Wanting to start the new Sandhills Athletic Conference slate off on the right foot, the Lady Raider volleyball team had to dig deep to earn it on Tuesday.

Facing a two-set deficit, the Lady Raiders rallied during the final three sets to defeat Southern Lee High School in five frames.

The 3-2 win was the second time in two seasons Richmond has gone the full distance against the Lady Cavaliers to begin SAC play. Set scores were 22-25, 18-25, 28-26, 25-20 and 16-14.

Head coach Ashleigh Larsen said she was proud of the way the Lady Raiders responded with their backs to the wall.

“We got back on our heels in the first set and we weren’t playing with confidence,” Larsen said. “Everyone on the bench was telling the girls to pick their heads up and talk. That led into a better second set and we eventually got into a groove in the third.

“The girls started making better adjustments, and Katie Way and Catherine Dennis got hot in the middle,” she added. “That really got the team pumped up and things fell together for us to put (Southern Lee) back on their heels.”

The Lady Cavaliers (3-3, 0-1 SAC) took an early three-point lead in the first set, but a 9-3 run by Richmond gave the visitors an 11-8 lead and forced a timeout. Junior Christi Jacobs fueled the run by serving five straight points.

Trading points, the two teams tied the set at 17, before Southern Lee pulled ahead 21-17. Richmond took a break in the action, but the Lady Cavaliers still won the set.

Another early tie in the second set, 7-7, was followed by a 4-0 spurt by the home team. Out of the break, Southern Lee served a ball into the net and Richmond answered with four straight points from junior Keyoni Nichols at the line.

Knotted at 16 points, momentum shifted in favor of Southern Lee, which took a 23-18 lead. Larsen called a timeout, but a 2-0 run capped the second and put the Lady Raiders in a two-set hole.

“We regrouped after the second set and I told the girls they needed to carry the momentum we had started to build into the third,” Larsen explained. “We won that set and then we really got rolling in the fourth and made the fifth interesting.

“The girls showed more of that relentless pursuit tonight by battling with tight scores. They never gave up and we learned from our mistakes in first and second sets.”

Junior Allie Rodgers helped give Richmond a 6-2 lead following four straight points to begin the third, but the back-and-forth shuffle continued. Both squads battled to ties of 8, 9, 11, 12 and 14 points.

A 4-1 stretch by Richmond opened its lead to 18-15, but again the teams went through a series of ties. Richmond broke it to a two-point lead, 23-21, but four more ties saw the score go to 26 all. 


Dennis helped give the Lady Raiders life when she recorded back-to-back kills to win the set 28-26 and go to the fourth.

Sophomore Ava Edmondson served Richmond to a 6-1 lead to begin the fourth stanza, forcing a timeout. But Southern Lee rallied to take a 12-11 lead.

With the frame tied at 18 points, a couple of smart plays at the net from Dennis pulled Richmond ahead by four points. Outscoring the Lady Cavs 3-2 in the final five volleys, another Dennis kill found the hardwood to force a decisive fifth set.

Only needing 15 points to win, Richmond’s first four came on an error, two kills by Way and a hit out of bounds. A pair of hitting errors put the Lady Raiders up 6-4, but a run by Southern Lee gave the home team a 7-6 advantage.

Trailing 11-7, Larsen called a timeout. A serve into the net by the Lady Cavs broke the streak and Dennis registered two more kills to pull within one point.

Another miscue by Southern Lee, paired with two more Dennis kills, put Richmond ahead 13-12. Later tied at 14 points, two errors by the Lady Cavs secured the comeback win for the Lady Raiders.

“The goal is to always start conference play with a win and I know the girls are glad to do that,” Larsen closed. “It’s a confidence booster to prepare for Pinecrest, which is always a top-ranked team that’s very competitive.

“We’ve played well during our non-conference matches and I think that’s prepared us. If the girls carry over the same mentality from the third, fourth and fifth sets from tonight, we can compete.”

Richmond (4-3, 1-0 SAC) continues conference action on Thursday with a road match at Pinecrest High School (4-1, 0-0 SAC). Varsity will start at 6 p.m.

Note: Deon Cranford contributed information to this article.

JV Lady Raiders end slide

The Richmond junior varsity volleyball team snapped a two-game losing streak on Tuesday. 

Defeating the JV Lady Cavaliers in straight sets, Richmond and head coach Melissa Dennis notched set scores of 25-16 and 25-4.

Improving to 5-2 overall and 1-0 against SAC opponents, the JV Lady Raiders will also play at Pinecrest on Thursday. The match will begin at 5 p.m.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.