ROCKINGHAM — The old adage of “you win some, you lose some” is how Chris Larsen reacted to the NCHSAA releasing its girls’ soccer playoff brackets on Friday.
Believing the Lady Raiders did everything they could, Larsen and the team had to wait three days to see whether or not they had qualified for the postseason after losing in the semifinals of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament.
Just missing out, Richmond was the No. 33 team in the final 4A East rankings, one spot shy, ending a playoff streak dating back to 2015 (with the exemption of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).
The Lady Raiders (13-8-1) finished the season with a final ratings percentage index (RPI) of 0.510140, which combined their winning percentage, opponents’ winning percentage and opponents’ opponents winning percentage.
That mark was just behind No. 32 seed Wake Forest, which had an RPI of 0.516019.
“Once the first rankings came out midseason, I knew it would be tight basing it off what we had done in the past,” Larsen said of Richmond’s playoff chances. “I thought we’d sneak in, especially because of our non-conference record. If we could have won another game or two in conference, we may have made it.
“Like I told the girls, we only lost to three teams in conference,” he added. “Each time we played them, we did a lot better. And we were able to win most of our non-conference games, so I’d say it was a successful season. We bettered our record and did what we needed to do, but the way the playoffs are calculated, we came up short.”
Not limiting the season’s success to wins, losses or the postseason, Larsen said there were a lot of positives to come out of the 2023 season.
One of those was an historic start to the season that yielded a 7-1-1 record, the program’s best start through nine games to begin a campaign.
During that stretch, Richmond started 5-0 with wins over non-conference opponents Montgomery Central, Cape Fear, South View, Lumberton and Purnell Swett high schools. The Lady Raiders outscored those opponents 22-3.
Following a 1-1 draw with Uwharrie Charter Academy, the Lady Raiders picked up a forfeit against Southern Lee to open SAC play. Wins over Whiteville and Hoke County were sandwiched around the team’s first loss to Pinecrest.
Richmond placed fourth overall in the SAC, posting a 6-6 record. The Lady Raiders swept Hoke County, Scotland and Southern Lee with two wins apiece and were the second-place 4A school behind Pinecrest.
Winning just two games over an eight-game stretch in the second half of the season was capped by winning three of the final four games. In those victories over Southern Lee, Scotland and Hoke County, the Lady Raiders outscored them 16-2.
A total of 14 players scored at least one goal this spring, with senior Cheyenne Jacobs netting a team-high 10 goals. Junior Allie Rodgers, who missed the final quarter of the season, had nine goals.
Other top scorers were senior Sheccid Heaton (7), sophomores Hanna Smith (5) and Ashly Gonzalez (5) and senior Jennifer Gomez (4).
Jacobs’ 13 assists were also the most on the team, as Rodgers and Heaton both had three.
Through 22 games, Richmond averaged 2.6 goals per game and allowed 2.1 goals against. Sophomore goalkeeper Quanna Bostic played the majority of minutes between the posts, her second season as the starter.
“Quanna had a great second season and picked up where she left off,” Larsen said. “That’s promising for us because the more time she has, the more confident she becomes.
“Our three seniors on defense, Rylie Bohman, Kalei Sriratanakoul and Rebeca Avalos, along with Ava Thompsn, Nevaeh Harrison and Cate Kinsey played some solid minutes. That will pay off next year with the younger girls.
“We’ll lose Jennifer at center mid, but Kaleigh Cloninger, Gabby Lutz and Jenna Gardner played the majority of the season and will be back as seniors. We’ll also replace Cheyenne, Sheccid and C’Nedra Hinson at outside mid, but Hanna and Mariana Mendoza will help make the midfield one of our strongest areas.”
On the attack, Rodgers and Gonzalez will return after injuries ended their season early. Yulissa Avalos will also be back as a sophomore, along with several players Larsen expects to make the jump from junior varsity.
“We returned a good portion of players who had played in previous years and there were a lot of girls who also played a bigger role this season,” Larsen closed.
“I’m hoping we can take what they learned and use it moving forward. There will be a lot of girls coming back with solid minutes and I hope to build upon that. I hope that coming up short will get us refocused and make the girls want to get back to the playoffs.”