ROCKINGHAM – Twelve games into the 2017 campaign, the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team is still undefeated. And the single-season wins record is well within striking distance.
The Lady Raiders (12-0, 6-0 SAC) got one step closer to surpassing the mark set by the 2016 team (16 wins) Tuesday night when it blanked visiting Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Seventy-First High School 25-6, 25-8 and 25-14.
Entering the night on a seven-game slide, Seventy-First (1-7, 0-6 SAC) struggled out of the gate, as Richmond rolled in the first game. Head coach Shellie Wimpey noted that matches against teams like the Lady Falcons are sometimes tricky because it’s hard for her players to remain upbeat and play tough. But that wasn’t an issue Tuesday.
With the expectation to win now a sturdy pillar in Richmond’s philosophy, the Lady Raiders used their match against Seventy-First to fine tune their fundamentals. This is something Wimpey deems as essential regardless of her team’s overall record.
“Tonight was a great chance for us to work on passing the ball and communicating,” Wimpey said. “Our girls played really well and I’m pleased with how they came out and handled business from start to finish.”
All three of the match’s sets were one-sided, as Richmond dominated play at the net. What Wimpey called a “much better team performance” compared to its last match against Lumberton, the Lady Raiders went on several runs that allowed them to get out to big leads. In the second game, Richmond led 8-5 before going on a 17-3 streak to finish the set.
Not getting a lot of team kills tonight, the Raiders tallied only 18, but it was enough to do damage. Senior middle hitter Owen Bowers led the team with seven kills, while outside hitter Altman Griffin, who is this week’s Richmond Observer female athlete of the week, followed up with six of her own. Senior middle hitter Brianna Baysek added five more.
Defensively, the Lady Raiders dug the ball 37 times, with a team-high 18 in the second game. Junior outside hitter Savannah Lampley led the way with nine digs, while sophomore Allexis Swiney chipped in seven more.
Sophomore Allexis Swiney attacks the net during Tuesday’s match; she finished with seven digs.
Setting up the offensive explosion was senior setter Mackenzie Webb, who dished out 21 assists on the night. Webb has been an instrumental part of the Lady Raiders’ success, and expressed her thoughts on her role with the team.
“As the setter, I understand that my job is to collect the ball and serve up good passes,” Webb said. “Sometimes I feel like the match rests on my shoulders. If I have an off night, we may not do well. But we are playing really well right now, and I come prepared for every match.”
Another positive to come from Tuesday’s win was the ability for several non-starters to get playing time. With the Lady Raiders so reliant on its core of seniors, Wimpey realizes that some of her younger players need to gain experience for the program to be successful upon the departure of Baysek, Bowers, Griffin and Webb, among others.
“I’m glad some of our girls who don’t get a lot of playing time got into tonight’s match,” Wimpey said. “Eventually, they’re going to have to step up and fill the void left by seniors. Jadyn (Johnson), Allexis and Savannah (Chappell) will be starters next year, so any playing time at their position is beneficial to them and the team.”
Continuing an impressive eight-match winning streak of its own, the Richmond junior varsity team (10-2, 6-0 SAC) shutout the Lady Falcons in impressive fashion 25-8, 25-15. Head coach Ashleigh Larsen continues to see growth out of her team, and is impressed by their ability to go up big early and maintain large leads.
“Over the last eight matches, our girls have played some of their best volleyball all season,” Larsen said. “Being undefeated in conference play is also a good sign that we’re doing something right. Tonight, we made very little mistakes, and I’m proud of how my girls seem to be making less and less.”
The junior varsity squad tallied 19 team aces, its most in any match all season. Freshman Georgia Grace Anderson led all players with five aces, and sophomore Carley Lambeth and freshman Taylor Chappell each added three of their own. Seven total Richmond players earned at least one ace Tuesday.
Both Lady Raiders teams hit the road Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, as they’ll visit Scotland County High School. The varsity Lady Fighting Scots (7-3, 4-1 SAC) may prove to be a tough opponent. Junior varsity will begin at 5 p.m., followed by varsity at 6 p.m.