ROCKINGHAM – With an early-season “rivalry week” settling over Richmond Senior High School, the Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team deflated No.1 foe Pinecrest High School in straight games Tuesday night.
After winning the Sandhills Athletic Conference title in 2016, which included two victories over Pinecrest (the first time Richmond had defeated them multiple times in a season under head coach Shellie Wimpey), the Lady Raiders (6-0, 2-0) handled their business by shutting out the Lady Patriots (1-2, 1-1), 3-0, winning 25-12, 25-19 and 25-22.
For the fourth time in six matches, the Lady Raiders defense was stellar, and did not allow their opponent to take a single game. In the first game, Richmond breezed to an early lead, which Wimpey credited her team’s unwavering determination.
“We were so hyped and pumped tonight,” Wimpey said. “The first game was great; every point we scored, our girls were excited and let each other know how well they were doing.”
Behind outstanding performances by its senior core, Richmond outside hitter Altman Griffin demolished a frail Pinecrest defense by drilling home several high-powered kills. Griffin finished the night with a team-high eight kills, 12 digs, 10 points won and one ace. Middle hitters Brianna Baysek and Owen Bowers each chipped in with five kills. Bowers added four digs, two aces and two blocks; Baysek also contributed two blocks, one ace and one dig.
Defensively, sophomore libero Layne Maultsby provided assistance with eight digs of her own, while senior setter Mackenzie Webb tallied six. Webb also had 21 offensive assists.
The second game saw Pinecrest battle back, staying even with Richmond on the scoreboard. Trading points back and forth, and tied at eight, was all the Lady Raiders needed to push past the stronger Pinecrest defense. Richmond maintained a small lead 13-11, before surging ahead on a 7-3 run, which forced Lady Patriots head coach Scott Shepherd to call a timeout trailing 20-14.
After letting their opponent creep within four points, Wimpey called a timeout of her own. Following the break, Pinecrest committed a couple of unforced errors, which included a serve into the net to set up the game’s point. Baysek solidified the game’s win on the ensuing possession, sailing the ball between diving Pinecrest defenders.
“There were times tonight where we didn’t play as hard as we could have,” Griffin said. We got down on ourselves, but once we shifted the momentum, it definitely changed the game.”
Richmond seniors Owen Bowers (14) and Altman Griffin (back) crash the net during Tuesday’s win.
Up two games to none, Richmond found itself in a familiar position. However, the Lady Raiders seemed to get too comfortable in the third game, allowing the Lady Patriots to jump out to a 8-2 lead. Wimpey gathered her team, but they failed to make use of the stoppage, quickly finding themselves in their largest deficit of the night, trailing 16-7.
Using another timeout, Wimpey told her girls to remain upbeat and that they were capable of making a run. And what a comeback it was. In an exciting 12-2 run, the Lady Raiders picked apart Pinecrest’s defense to take their first lead of the game 19-18. Shepherd, feeling the pressure of the collapse, called another timeout, but his team never recovered. Griffin set up the match point, before Baysek picked up her second consecutive game-winning kill. The nine-point comeback was Richmond’s largest of the 2017 season.
“We were able to make the comeback in the third game because we adjusted (during timeouts), and had better court awareness,” Wimpey said. “Pinecrest is our rival for many reasons. They’re in such close proximity to us, and are so competitive, that it’s hard for them not to be. It was a great win tonight.”
The junior varsity team also won in straight sets, not allowing Pinecrest to score more than 14 points in either set, defeating them 24-13 and 25-14.
Leading the way for the JV team (4-2, 2-0) was sophomore outside hitter Madison Jordan, who had two kills and two digs. Freshman libero Emy Cooley tacked on three digs.
“The girls played really aggressive tonight,” JV head coach Ashleigh Larsen said. “They were unrelenting in pouring on the points, and that’s really good for our team. To beat Pinecrest in this fashion gives us a major boost moving forward.”
As the varsity team is ranked as the No. 30 team in the state, their quest to repeat as SAC champions remains intact. Pinecrest, which is Richmond’s biggest rival, will also visit town Wednesday to face the boy’s soccer team.
“After we beat Pinecrest (twice) last year, winning tonight was a really good feeling on top of that,” Griffin said. “To be 6-0 is really good, and shows that we’re getting with volleyball at Richmond.”
The Lady Raiders return to action Wednesday and look to remain undefeated, as they will host Lee County High School, whom they beat 3-1 on August 22. Junior varsity is set to begin at 4:30, followed by varsity at 5:30 p.m.