LUMBERTON – As the inaugural Sandhills Athletic Conference volleyball season draws to a close, the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity team notched itself as the 2017 regular season champions.
Finishing the week with three wins in as many nights, the Lady Raiders clinched the championship win as they continued their historic winning streak on the road at SAC opponent Lumberton High School.
Richmond (20-0, 12-0 SAC) won in four sets, winning the first two 25-14 and 25-18. It dropped the third set 20-25, and capped off the Lady Pirates (7-11, 3-8 SAC) 25-18 in the fourth game.
Head coach Shellie Wimpey, who took the blame for dropping the third set, noted some personnel changes as the reason why the Lady Raiders didn’t win in straight sets (a norm that Richmond has established this season).
“We have been working on a different lineup in practice and wanted to give it a try,” Wimpey said. “We struggled with that lineup. And then Altman (Griffin) got sick and had to be taken out of the match.”
But the Lady Raiders fared well without their senior leader on the court, bouncing back in the fourth game to remain perfect on the season.
As a team, Richmond put impressive numbers on the scoresheet. Using the “team chemistry” that has become a storyline in and of itself, the Lady Raiders attacked well and played solid defense. The girls in green racked up 47 team kills between the four sets, while also collecting 72 team digs.
The second set, which was the best offensive set of the match, saw 15 total kills. Senior middle hitter Owen Bowers, who finished with a match-best 17 kills, picked up six of them in the second game. She also had one ace. Senior outside hitter Altman Griffin, who did not play the entire fourth game, racked up five kills in the second frame, and finished with 12 on the night, adding once ace.
Also chipping in for the Lady Raiders offensively was senior middle hitter Brianna Baysek, who drove 10 kills home, four each in the third and fourth games. Senior setter Mackenzie Webb, who set the ball well all night, collected three kills and one ace.
Junior outside hitter Savannah Lampley had a better night defensively, but collected two kills and an ace. Sophomore outside hitter Allexis Swiney drilled one kill, too.
Defensively, the Lady Raiders made it tough for Lumberton to get on the board. Four Richmond players hit double digits in digs, with sophomore defensive specialist Layne Maultsby tallying a team-high 14 digs. Also reaching double digits, all with 11 individual digs, were Lampley, Swiney and Webb. Griffin finished the night with nine, and sophomore Jadyn Johnson added seven more.
“The girls did a great job stepping up in the fourth game without the leadership of Altman on the court,” Wimpey said. “I’m very proud of them for finishing the game strong.”
In junior varsity play, Richmond improved to 17-3 on the year, as the Lady Raiders staved off the Lady Pirates in three sets 25-13, 23-25 and 25-12.
Head coach Ashleigh also tried to switch up the personnel on the court during the second game, but didn’t see the results she wanted.
“I’m disappointed that the girls let (Lumberton) back in the second game,” Larsen said. “I tried to get some players who don’t play much in the match, but they played scared. But it was our defense tonight that kept us in the match to allow us to win.”
Freshman Jakerra Covington had a big game offensively. She had six kills, four aces and three blocks. Georgia Grace Anderson, also a freshman, was aggressive on the serve, getting three aces.
The Lady Raiders are now just two matches away from finishing the season an unprecedented 22-0. They’ll wrap up regular season play next week, travelling Tuesday to Seventy-First High School (6 p.m.), and hosting Scotland High School Thursday for Senior Night. Both matches start with junior varsity at 5 p.m., and varsity following at 6 p.m.