CAMERON – Entering Wednesday’s non-conference match at Union Pines High School, the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team hadn’t allowed a match to go to five games during the 2017 season.
And the Lady Vikings (6-3), who proved to be Richmond’s (10-0) toughest competition to date, tested the Lady Raiders early and put them in a corner, making them fight for a tie-breaking fifth set. But Richmond emerged victorious, winning its 10th consecutive match, and its sixth road competition of the year.
After dropping its first opening game of the year 25-27, the Lady Raiders dug in their heels and rallied to win three of the next four. Richmond took game two 25-21, lost game three 20-25, and finished strong taking games four and five 25-22 and 15-12, respectively.
“Our girls battled really hard tonight,” head coach Shellie Wimpey said. “They went out there and earned every point. This is the best team we’ve played, and we lost to them in three sets last year. It was good to get over that hump.”
Despite facing an early deficit, Wimpey’s team made some quick adjustments. Using an all-out team effort to combat Union Pines, the Lady Raiders tallied a season-high 44 kills, with senior outside hitter Altman Griffin racking up a team-high 19 of her own. Senior middle hitter Owen Bowers wasn’t far behind, following up Tuesday’s eight-kill performance with 10 more Wednesday.
Senior middle hitter Brianna Baysek finished the night with nine kills, and the remaining six kills were mixed between junior outside hitter Savannah Lampley (3), sophomore outside hitter Allexis Swiney (2) and senior setter Mackenzie Webb (1). Bowers, Griffin and Webb each had one ace, too. Webb dished out 43 offensive assists in the come-from-behind victory.
Wimpey credited her girls for fighting back against a tough Union Pines squad. Until Wednesday’s match, the Lady Raider’s hadn’t had to fight out of a hole to earn a victory, which is something that Wimpey views as crucial moving forward toward future successes.
“Beating such a good team really validates how good we are this season,” Wimpey noted. “We played hard as a team, and good things come from that. Making adjustments throughout the night were key for us. Several girls stepped up big and allowed us to earn the win.”
Defensively, Richmond struggled to find its rhythm, but collected itself by match’s end. Lampley came up huge by contributing a team and personal season-high 23 digs to Richmond’s 89 total. Chipping in with impressive numbers of their own were sophomore libero Layne Maultsby (20 digs) and Griffin (15 digs).
In conjunction with digging the ball to set up offensive plays, the Lady Raiders blocked as well as they have all season. Griffin and Swiney each had three blocks, and Bowers stopped two more at the net. Swinney finished with nine digs, and Baysek and Bowers added eight digs apiece.
Richmond’s junior varsity team also found themselves down after the first game, but rallied in its final two sets to win 21-25, 25-21 and 25-23. Having been in this position before, head coach Ashleigh Larsen’s team made adjustments and were all business from there on out.
The JV team (8-2) relied heavily on a strong performance by sophomore outside hitter Madison Jordan, who tallied 13 digs, two kills and delivered a “huge ace” in the third game. Sophomore setter Carley Lambeth added with seven digs, five assists and three kills.
“My girls fought back tonight after going down early,” Larsen said. “I’m proud of the way they adjusted in the second and third games. It shows that they weren’t defeated and are able to mount a comeback against a tough opponent.”
Both Lady Raiders squads return home Thursday as they re-enter Sandhills Athletic Conference play. They’ll host SAC opponent Lumberton High School (4-5, 1-3 SAC), with the Lady Pirates looking to recover from a 3-0 loss to Pinecrest High School earlier in the week. Junior varsity will play at 5 p.m., followed by varsity at 6 p.m.