SOUTHERN PINES — If there’s one thing Melissa Dennis learned about her junior varsity volleyball team early this season, it’s that the Lady Raiders have a lot of fight in them.
On the road for the second time in three nights, the Richmond JV team battled against Sandhills Athletic Conference foe Pinecrest. Despite several ties and leads late in the second and third sets, Richmond fell 2-1.
In impressive comeback fashion, the Lady Raiders took the first set 26-24. They almost did it again in both the second and third sets, but ultimately fell 27-29 and 13-15.
“I was really impressed with the fight they had tonight,” Dennis said. “These girls came together and kept each other up and made adjustments easily. The trick is not to get in that hole in the first place.”
All three sets saw both teams trade scores, and Richmond held a 15-9 lead early in the first set. Pinecrest responded with an 11-0 run to take a five-point lead, 21-16.
But that’s when the Lady Raiders dug their heels in and closed the set on a 10-3 spurt to take the opening frame. The set-winning run started with a tip from sophomore Quston Leviner and freshman Jenna Gardner added a bump into empty space.
A Leviner ace pulled Richmond within one point, but it was the defensive work of freshmen Emma Altman and Joy Styles a couple volleys later that was the tipping point. Each had a diving dig that kept the rally going, and Styles followed that with an ace to knot the set at 24 points.
Back-to-back errors by Pinecrest ended the set.
Freshmen Allie Rodgers and Makailah Jackson both played more minutes Thursday than they did in the opener. Rodgers, the team’s libero, showed her strength at the serving line late in the second set and Jackson’s height proved effective.
Jackson blocked a kill attempt early in the frame and added a kill of her own to cut Richmond’s deficit to four points, 19-15. Dennis called a timeout a couple plays later and that sparked a 9-0 run by the Lady Raiders.
With Rodgers at the line, she served three aces in four plays. Freshman Katie Way added some help with a one-handed block at the net to tie the match and Altman pushed a ball back into no-man’s land on the next play to give the Lady Raiders a 24-23 lead.
Although the comeback was impressive, Dennis noted, Richmond couldn’t close the door despite having the upper hand three times.
“We are still early in the season and I’m playing with the lineup,” Dennis explained. “We have a lot of versatility and I am trying different things.
“Allie really stepped up and showed she wanted to be out there. She listened and made adjustments as needed. Her serving was consistent and aggressive, and that helped us battle back in the second set.”
The third set was played much closer like at the end of the second. There were ties at six, seven, eight and 12 points. After a Pinecrest hitting error allowed the Lady Raiders to tie it at 13 points, the home team used a 2-0 run to win the match.
The Lady Raiders (0-2, 0-2 SAC) will look to break into the win column Monday when they play in their home opener. Richmond will welcome in Jack Britt High School for another SAC match starting at 5 p.m.
Per the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, only 25 spectators will be allowed in to watch. All fans and team personnel must wear masks.
“Monday is a new game and I hope the girls carry that fight over for Jack Britt,” Dennis closed. “They seem to want to get back out there and that is a great attitude to have after a loss.”