ROCKINGHAM – The accolades are pouring in after the best season in Richmond Senior High School volleyball program history.
After starting the season a perfect 25-0, the Lady Raiders saw their season come to an end last Tuesday following a five-set loss to No. 15 Lake Norman High School. Be it as it may, it shouldn’t take away from the season the team had, especially five players and the head coach.
Early this week, the Sandhills Athletic Conference announced its 2017 All-Conference team, which is comprised of Richmond’s Brianna Baysek, Owen Bowers, Altman Griffin, Savannah Lampley and Mackenzie Webb. All five players made the All-Conference team in 2016.
Griffin was voted top honors as the SAC’s “player of the year,” while head coach Shellie Wimpey took the “coach of the year” award. Both Griffin and Wimpey won their respective awards following the 2016 season.
As it’s no secret that this year’s team was unique in a variety of ways, the five All-SAC Lady Raiders players helped Richmond surpass its program record for wins in a season (previously 16), win the regular season title for the second year in a row, as well as the SAC tournament crown.
The RO spoke with each of the All-Conference players and Wimpey.
SENIOR MIDDLE HITTER
As a senior, Baysek’s role as a middle hitter was instrumental in Richmond’s historic run. A threat at the net who was capable of consistently blocking opposing kills, Baysek’s ability to kill the ball propelled Richmond throughout the season.
“Being named All-Conference during my senior year is an honor, and it’s a great achievement that reflects the work I put in during the season,” Baysek said. “This award is something I’ll remember forever.”
Working closely with fellow senior middle hitter Bowers, Baysek credits their friendship all through high school as the reason why they were a dynamic duo up front.
“Playing with as much chemistry as we do made a huge difference in our performance,” Baysek noted. “We feed off each other and lifted each other up through the season. I believe this made us better players.”
Though it’s a tough realization that her volleyball career at Richmond is over, Baysek is gracious for her teammates and coaches, and has a few special memories.
“The most memorable aspect of my senior year was the relationship the team had with each other,” Baysek concluded. “No matter the outcome of the season, our team has friendships that will last a lifetime. We had a great time throughout the good and the bad of the season, which means everything to me.”
Wimpey noted that Baysek is “really athletic and can make things happen” all over the court.
SENIOR MIDDLE HITTER
Bowers, also a senior, who can be identified by her big windup when attempting a kill, partnered with Baysek at the front of the net. Generally the No. 2 leader in kills each match, Bowers aided her fellow teammates during their 25-0 run.
“I am blessed to be named an All-Conference player along with everyone else who was nominated,” Bowers said. “I’m thankful for everyone who nominated me. It’s great to leave Richmond volleyball with a memorable season, even though it didn’t end how we wanted it to.”
Wimpey called Bowers a “gamer” and a player who “comes out strong and loves to compete.” Bowers echoed her coach’s words saying she put her best effort forward each match.
“This year, I just tried to do as much as I could to get my team a point regardless of how I did it,” Bowers noted. “Working with my teammates and picking each other up helped myself as well as everyone else on the court.”
There are a lot of great things to remember from this season, but one match in particular stands out to Bowers as being her most memorable.
“I’ve made countless memories every day, but my favorite is beating Scotland on senior night this year,” Bowers expressed. “Although the game wasn’t close, the crowd and the mood in the gym made the night even better than a normal win.”
SENIOR OUTSIDE HITTER
Griffin, who rose to Wimpey’s expectations to be the “great leader on the court” she knew and needed her to be, was undoubtedly Richmond’s most explosive weapon on offense. She racked up a season-high 19 kills on September 6 against Union Pines, and could often be found screaming down the left side of the court and drilling home a Webb set.
“It’s really an honor to be named player of the year,” Griffin stated when asked about the back-to-back honor. “There are so many talented players in the conference and on my team, that could have easily taken (the honor). I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at, but I am nowhere near where I hope to be.”
Griffin made a point that her accolades wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance from all of her teammates, but especially from Webb.
“With her (Webb) sets, I wouldn’t be able to hit the ball and she never gets enough credit,” Griffin explained. “My other teammates have pushed me to be great. We had a competitive group of girls and trying to be No. 1 is always tough. Even though we’re all close friends, we all love to have bragging rights.”
Unable to pick her favorite memory, Griffin reflected back on the season and credited her teammates for the unbelievable run.
“Getting closer to my teammates and having a great time with them has been wonderful,” Griffin said. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to work with.
“I hope the future Lady Raider volleyball players work hard and are willing to commit to the sport. The record isn’t important; it’s what you get out of the game.”
JUNIOR OUTSIDE HITTER
As the only regular starting underclassmen during the 2017 campaign, Lampley proved to be an asset on both offense and defense. Utilizing her speed on the court, Lampley was often sprawled out picking up big digs to set up the offense.
Wimpey reiterated this by saying Lampley “is aggressive and is willing to lay her body out to get the ball.”
“It feels good to be All-Conference again this year,” Lampley said. “I’m glad I could help the team out, but I wish we could have gone deeper in the playoffs.”
Though she’s just a junior, Lampley has been playing with this group of seniors since her freshman year at the varsity level. She credits her playing experience with them as to why she works so well with her teammates.
“I don’t look at it like I’m a junior and they’re seniors,” Lampley said. “I’ve been playing with them since my ninth grade year.
“My favorite memory this year was our 25-game winning streak,” she added.
Described by Wimpey as a “perfectionist” and a player who “always works hard,” Webb’s role as the setter often times goes unnoticed. Just because sets aren’t flashy stats on the stat sheet, doesn’t mean Webb’s role is any less important; in fact, without her superior work this season, the offense wouldn’t have been what it was.
“It’s an honor to be able to make All-Conference,” Web echoed her teammates. “It’s always nice to see hard work pay off.”
Like several other teammates, Webb discussed Richmond’s team chemistry and how it benefitted the Lady Raiders throughout the season.
“I believe we were able to be successful because of our team chemistry and the bond we share on and off the court,” Webb said. “An all-around effort really pushed us over the top this season.
“We always have a great time when we’re together,” Webb continued. “We all get along really well, so whenever we’re together, we’re laughing and just having fun. It’s hard to pick out one particular favorite moment because it’s always so enjoyable to be around close friends.”
HEAD COACH OF THE YEAR
The mastermind behind the 2017 Lady Raiders, Wimpey has taken the Richmond program to new heights since taking over the program in 2010. In the last two years, Wimpey has led the Raiders to a 40-7-3 record.
In the past two years, Wimpey has captained her team to back-to-back regular season titles, as well as the 2017 SAC Championship. Though she’s proud of earning her second consecutive coach of the year honor, Wimpey places the emphasis on her players.
“Having five players make All-Conference just shows how hard these ladies have worked this season,” Wimpey said.
“My favorite memory would have to be when Savannah (Lampley) dug back-to-back-to-back balls against Scotland,” Wimpey continued. “Something happened in practice the day before that’s an inside team joke, so when it happened in the game, it was so funny.”
OTHER SAC ALL-CONFERENCE MEMBERS
Members of the seven other SAC schools who made the All-Conference team are listed below:
Hoke: Alexis Blackwell (senior), Kimora Blue (senior) and Diamond Holmes (senior).
Jack Britt: Caitlin Broome (junior), Holly Cornelius (sophomore), Kaiah Parker (sophomore) and Lauren Walker (junior).
Lumberton: London Thompson (senior).
Pinecrest: Nicole Barnes (senior), Camille Honeycutt (junior), Cat Schlaff (senior) and McLendyn Weatherby (senior).
Purnell Swett: Rebekah Chavis (senior).
Scotland: Sarah Eury (junior), Macie Gibson (senior), Kandon Laquer and Ashley McGugan (senior).
Seventy-First: Laila Gunnings (junior).