ROCKINGHAM – At this point, it’s almost unfair to say that the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders volleyball team is in mid-season form.
It’s an unjustifiable claim because the Lady Raiders look like the veteran squad they are primed and ready for a late-season playoff push. Before the season began, head coach Shellie Wimpey laid her expectations out to her team, and so far, the Lady Raiders have accomplished their goals.
Returning home Thursday night after two road games earlier this week, the Lady Raiders (11-0, 5-0 SAC) earned their 11th straight regular season win against Lumberton High School (4-6, 1-4 SAC). Richmond knocked off the Lady Pirates in straight sets, 25-15, 25-14 and 25-13.
Following up Wednesday’s five-set battle against non-conference opponent Union Pines, the Lady Raiders got back to their “normal” routine of winning in three games. Wimpey, whose expectations included winning more overall games and going undefeated in Sandhills Athletic Conference play for the second consecutive season, felt like her team now has a firm grip on the expectation of winning and repeating as conference champions.
But Thursday’s game wasn’t their best performance, according to Wimpey.
“We came out sluggish tonight,” Wimpey said. “Our girls are tired after playing two away games this week and going five games (Wednesday night). It’s matches like tonight’s that we need to execute our fundamental plays and work on getting better. It took some time, but we were able to get the win.”
Serving was a key element of Thursday’s victory, as seniors Altman Griffin and Mackenzie Webb each had four aces. Senior Owen Bowers also had three. Collecting 29 kills as a team, Griffin paved the way with 15, followed by senior Brianna Baysek (6), Bowers (5), junior Savannah Lampley (2) and Webb (1).
Defensively, Richmond’s diggers showed up in full force, gathering 47 collectively. Lampley finished the night with a team-high 13 digs, and was supported by Webb (9), Baysek (8) and Griffin (7), among others. Webb also handed out 28 assists, while Baysek added two blocks.
In front of a large home crowd, the Lady Raiders dominated play in the first game, relying on solid ball movement and finishing plays. There was nothing “flashy” about Richmond’s play, but it was enough to get the job done. Tied at eight, the Lady Raiders managed to get a 15-10 lead before Lumberton head coach Tre Britt called a timeout.
The break proved ineffective, as Richmond ran a 10-5 run to close out the set. Behind solid serving by Bowers, the Lady Raiders finished the opening game on a Webb assist to Griffin, who tipped the ball over the net.
The second and third games were also back-and forth affairs, with both teams going on small runs to keep the score close. In the second set, Richmond led again 15-10 before closing out on another substantial run, this time a 10-4 roll. Bowers’ serving, as well as great net presence by Baysek and Webb proved to be the difference.
“I’m really proud of the way we stepped up tonight,” Bowers said. “We’ve played a lot this week, and our legs aren’t as strong. But I’m glad to see us come together to get this win. Eleven in a row is great. The (school’s) season record is 16 (total), and we’d like to beat that without a loss.”
In the final game, Lumberton’s last-ditch effort wasn’t enough. Tied at 10, Griffin and Webb took to the serving line and came up big. After back-to-back aces by Griffin, Lumberton called a timeout. Out of the recess, Richmond attacked the net, going on a 7-2 run to get a 17-12 lead. The Lady Pirates never recovered, faltering 25-13 on a Griffin right-handed slam.
“Lumberton had some stronger hitters,” Wimpey said. “We attacked the net well, and my middle blockers are getting better at getting to the net more quickly to challenge oncoming shots.”
The junior varsity team, who entered the night on a six-game winning streak, picked up its seventh straight victory, silencing Lumberton in two games, winning 25-18 and 25-9.
JV head coach Ashleigh Larsen, who has noted her team had played their best game of the season the previous night at Union Pines, said there were moments in Thursday’s match where her players seemed to not be playing their best.
“The first game was a slow start for us, but we managed to jump out to a big lead,” Larsen said. “But we fell complacent in the middle of the set and let Lumberton get back in it. But it was good to emerge strong and eventually get some of my bench players some experience.”
Richmond trailed early in the first game 3-0, before taking tying the score at five. Rolling on an 18-5 run to lead 23-10, the Lady Raiders seemed certain of a quick victory, but Lumberton mustered a rally of its own. The Lady Pirates regained their composure and rallied to within six points before Larsen called a timeout. A kill by freshman middle hitter Georgia Grace Anderson set up the game point, which culminated in sophomore middle hitter Jasmine Ewing’s volley over the net.
In the second game the Lady Raiders were much more effective, holding their opponent to single digits on the scoreboard. Jumping out to a 13-4 lead, Richmond played much more consistently than in the first game. Freshman Kearston Bruce tipped a ball at the net for the match winner.
Richmond will look to continue its historic start to the season, as play will pick up next Tuesday, September 12, 2017, as they’ll host newly-added SAC team Seventy First High School (1-5, 0-4 SAC). Junior varsity will serve things up at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity team at 6 p.m.