ROCKINGHAM — Three players who patrolled the midfield for the Lady Raiders this season were named to the 2023 All-Sandhills Athletic Conference.
Seniors Jennifer Gomez and Cheyenne Jacobs, along with junior Gabby Lutz, were Richmond’s selections this spring.
Head coach Chris Larsen released the team this week following the elimination of Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools in the second round of the NCHSAA state playoffs.
Lutz, a center midfielder, returned to the All-Conference team for the second consecutive season. Gomez (center mid) and Jacobs (outside mid) each capped their respective careers with their first selection.
Richmond earned fourth place in the SAC standings this season, putting together a 13-8-1 overall record. Against conference teams, the Lady Raiders were 6-6, landing them three automatic selections.
Just missing out on the 4A East playoffs, the trio of Lady Raiders helped the team add three more wins than last year. They were part of an historic start that saw Richmond go 7-1-1, the best start in program history through nine games.
Kassidy Woodard (Pinecrest) was named the Goalkeeper of the Year and Leah Morris (Union Pines) was selected as Defensive Player of the Year. Lee County’s Gillian Garrison was Offensive Player of the Year and Brad Wicker was awarded Coach of the Year.
Jennifer Gomez, center midfielder
A four-year player on varsity, Gomez was paired with Lutz as Richmond’s starting center midfielders this spring. Tasked with playing both ways, Gomez helped the team on offense and defense.
In 20 games this spring, Gomez recorded 13 shots on goal. She netted four goals, a career-high tally, and added two assists.
Gomez had two of her goals on senior night against Southern Lee, and scored solo goals against Cape Fear and Uwharrie Charter during a 5-0 start to the season. Her two assists came in a win over Lumberton.
“I’m pretty proud of myself for making All-Conference,” Gomez said. “I’ve been practicing and working hard the last four years and trying to get recognized for my efforts. I’m glad to end my career this way. I was pretty surprised, too.
“This year we had good teamwork and were really friendly with each other. Those good relationships helped us on the field. My biggest takeaway is to always persevere and keep going, even when things are difficult or you want to give up.”
Cheyenne Jacobs, outside midfielder
Finishing her third year on varsity, Jacobs was Richmond’s go-to player for goals and assists. She set career-highs with 10 goals and 13 assists in 21 games for the Lady Raiders. That goal total tied her for ninth best in the SAC with Kamden Lewis (Pinecrest).
Working the right outside midfielder position, Jacobs used her speed to score and create open space to slide assists to teammates. She had three two-goal games against Lumberton, Purnell Swett and Scotland. Her other four goals came against Hoke County (two), Southern Lee and Whiteville.
Credited with at least one assist in 10 games, Jacobs also had a trio of two-assist performances. Those outings were Scotland, Southern Lee and Whiteville. Her 13 total assists placed her second this season in the SAC behind Taryn Pekala of Union Pines (19).
“I’m really proud of myself, but was shocked to find out that I made All-Conference,” Jacobs shared. “I’ve worked hard to get here and it feels really good to be recognized.
“What allowed me to be successful was just working well with my teammates and having the right motivation. My favorite memory this year was how Coach (Ashleigh) Buie used her ways to motivate me to score goals.”
Gabby Lutz, center midfielder
Lutz completed her second varsity season this spring and repeated as an All-Conference selection. Last year as a sophomore, she earned All-SAC credit along with former player Michala Nechvilova.
Fulfilling her role as Larsen’s holding midfielder, Lutz provided stability to the back line on defense while facilitating counterattacks and offensive runs out of the middle of the field. Larsen noted that much of what Lutz added to the team “won’t show up on the stat sheet,” but was a big component to Richmond’s success.
Finding the back of the net twice this season, matching her total from last spring, Lutz scored as part of a 7-0 win against South View early in the campaign. She also netted a goal in a 2-1 double overtime victory against Hoke County in April. Assisting on one goal, she picked that up in the final game of the season against Union Pines.
“I was surprised because I feel like I didn’t have as much growth this year as I did last year,” Lutz said. “Some areas I contributed to were just trying to keep us together, especially when we play tougher teams. It’s easy to lose possession and get stuck defending or get scattered and not work together that well.
“Next year, I’m looking forward to having a lot of returners. It’ll be interesting to see how things go with playing time and how much better we can get. Hopefully we’ll have a good season.”
Note: All statistics in this article were used from MaxPreps.com.