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Lady Raiders Volleyball Closes Gap on Single-Season Wins Record; Shutsout Purnell Swett 3-0

Senior middle hitter Owen Bowers.
Photo courtesy of Jimmy McDonald.

PEMBROKE, N.C. – Another match down, and just two more to go.

That’s the current scenario for the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team as it inched closer to the program’s all-time record for wins in a single season (16 in 2016).

Richmond (15-0, 8-0 Sandhills Athletic Conference) was on the road for the second consecutive night, this time defeating SAC opponent Purnell Swett High School (6-7, 2-6 SAC) 3-0. Blanking its opponent in straight sets in back-to-back nights, the Lady Raiders won 25-15, 25-12, 25-12.

It’s gotten to the point in the historic season that there isn’t much “new” information to report on. The Lady Raiders are exceptionally talented, and that’s the fact of the matter. Regardless of other conference programs having “down” seasons, the streak that Richmond has compiled is commendable and deserves recognition.

“Tonight was another win closer to our goal, which is winning conference again,” head coach Shellie Wimpey said. “From the start, our girls have wanted to reign as conference champs, and to this point, it’s looking good. The winning streak is fantastic, and we’ll continue to compete each night to keep it going.”

In Wednesday’s match, the Lady Raiders maintained a balanced diet of offense and defense, tallying 33 team kills and 47 digs. A plethora of players, including its starting core of seniors, as well as several bench players, contributed to the shutout of the Lady Rams. In game one, Richmond had a game-high 16 kills, while in games two and three, they added nine and eight more, respectively. Aces also proved to be a factor, as the Lady Raiders served 11 of them, with six coming in the third set.

Defensively, the third game was the best of the night for Richmond, which saw 20 digs by six different players.

This was the second meeting of the two teams this season, as Richmond also held Purnell Swett scoreless in three sets on August 24. With stats that were comparable to the first get-together, senior outside hitter Altman Griffin racked up a team-high 13 kills. She also added five digs and two aces.

Continuing to see several players contribute big numbers across the board, Richmond middle hitter Owen Bowers collected eight kills, one ace and one block, while senior Brianna Baysek added seven kills, five digs, one ace and one block.

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Wimpey was also able to substitute several non-starters into the match, something that she’s doing more often later in blowout matches. Sophomore outside hitter Jadyn Johnson came off the bench to serve up four aces and gathered two digs in the third set. Senior middle hitter Amia Pemberton also entered the game, and collected one kill.

Following Wednesday’s frustrating loss to Anson High School that saw its nine-match winning streak snapped, the junior varsity team rebounded to defeat Purnell Swett in three sets, 25-21, 19-25 and 15-10.

Head coach Ashleigh Larsen noted that her girls started off timidly like the night before, but there was a different expectation to get back on the winning side of things.

“The girls started slow tonight,” Larsen said. “I saw moments of them picking up the intensity, but they would fall back into a slump. It was good to be able to put together a couple of great runs in the first and third games to give us our 12th win of the season.”

Freshmen outside hitters Taylor Chappell and Emy Cooley led the junior varsity team, with Cooley racking up eight digs and adding three kills. Chappell led the team with six kills.

“Emy had awesome passes and digs tonight, which kept us in the game,” Larsen noted. “Taylor was a major presence at the net tonight, and her competitive spirit showed.”

Richmond has one of its toughest stretches of the season coming up next week. They’ll face Pinecrest High School (7-3, 5-2 SAC) and Jack Britt High School (10-4, 5-3 SAC) on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The Patriots match is on the road, while the Lady Raiders will host the Lady Buccaneers. Both matches are set to start with junior varsity at 5 p.m., followed by varsity at 6 p.m.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-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.