Home Local Sports Lady Raiders Varsity Volleyball Set to Repeat as Conference Champs

Lady Raiders Varsity Volleyball Set to Repeat as Conference Champs

ROCKINGHAM – With the 2017 season getting underway Tuesday at South Stanly High School, the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team has high aspirations to repeat as Sandhills Athletics Conference champions.

After going 15-6-3 in 2016, head coach Shellie Wimpey has an 11-girl roster studded with experience and a proven track record of being able to win. Every member of the team is a retuning player, that includes six seniors, two juniors and three sophomores. Last season, for the third time in program history, the Lady Raiders brought home the (then) Southeastern Conference title by going undefeated in conference play. Wimpey hopes that this season’s forecast is similar, as her girls continue to improve.

 “We’ve returned every player,” said Wimpey, who enters her sixth year as the varsity head coach, and eighth with the program. “We are bringing back a lot of experience, and several players participate in club ball, which I believe should bring more to the table for us this year.”

As leadership is essential to dominate on the court, Richmond will rely on a core of four seniors in its quest to repeat and return to the state playoffs. Having not lost any seniors, Richmond middle hitters Brianna Baysek and Owen Bowers, along with setter Mackenzie Webb and last season’s SEC player of the year Altman Griffin, will lead returning junior Savannah Lampley and first-time varsity sophomores Jadyn Johnson and Alexis Swiney. The four seniors, and Lampley, each earned all-conference recognition last season.

Another notable accolade is that the 2016 Lady Raiders ranked as the No. 3 team in the state in regards to team GPA. It’s a statistic that Wimpey values just as importantly as on-the-court numbers, and is a helpful asset for this year’s squad.

The Raiders, who failed to make it past the second round of the 2016 state playoffs (losing to Mallard Creek High School 3-0), is honing in on “fine-tuning” the fundamentals of the game. Wimpey stressed the team’s need to focus more on defense and blocking, and sees it imperative that efficient serving and receiving remain a top priority.  With the help of junior varsity head coach Ashleigh Larsen, it’s an obtainable goal.

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 “This year we are really focusing on defense and blocking because last year we struggled with that when we started playing teams that were hitting harder,” said Wimpey, who was named the SEC coach of the year in 2016. “We work on blocking every day. Serve and receive is something we also work on because you have to get that first pass up to set something up.”

Wimpey and the Lady Raiders have high expectations, but first and foremost, their primary goal is to remain SAC champs and go undefeated in conference play. This year also sees the addition of Jack Britt and Seventy-First High Schools, both in Cumberland County, to the SAC.

“Our expectations are to be conference champs, and go undefeated in conference (play),” Wimpey said, and welcomes the target on RSHS’ back. “I want to have a better record than last year. I don’t think we need to have six losses. It would be really nice to make it past the second round of (state) playoffs.”

Last week, Richmond scrimmaged Anson High School, and from what Wimpey saw, she was pleased. She noted that her players were able to “adjust and move to the ball” and left her with a feeling of certainty that that the 2017 season will be successful. But she wants to her players to continue working of reacting quickly and being ready to play from the start.

Following Tuesday’s season opener at South Stanly, the Lady Raiders will travel to West Montgomery, Lee County and Anson High Schools, before returning home to host Purnell Swett at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 24, 2017.

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Kyle Pillar is a nine-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.