ROCKINGHAM – Another trying opponent; another winless victim.
That has become the script the Richmond Senior High School Lady Raiders varsity volleyball team has followed this season, as it continued its run for a North Carolina 4-A state championship in the semifinal round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament Tuesday night.
For the third time this season, Richmond (24-0, 16-0 SAC) faced SAC rival Scotland High School (15-10, 8-6 SAC). And the No. 1-ranked Lady Raiders finished the season sweep of the No. 4 Lady Fighting Scots, besting the visiting team in three sets, winning 25-8, 25-21 and 25-19.
In typical Lady Raiders fashion, Richmond took the first set just as quickly as the match began. Picking up 10 kills and 15 digs in the first set, the Lady Raiders looked as dominant as they have all season. The Lady Raiders finished with 29 team kills, 46 digs, four aces and four blocks.
Senior outside hitter Altman Griffin, who stole the show statistically, notched seven kills and six digs in the first game. She finished the night tying her single-match high on the season with 19 kills. Her previous 19-kill performance was against Union Pines High School on September 6, which was a five-set affair.
The key to the first set beat down?
“Passing and defense,” head coach Shellie Wimpey said. “We passed great off the serve in the first game. Our defense was great. We need to take what we did in the first game and do it more consistently moving forward.”
The second game was the closest of the night, as Richmond failed to consistently pass the ball. With Richmond leading 13-7, Scotland head coach Mallory Wheeler called a timeout, which had little impact on her team or the Lady Raiders.
Senior middle hitter Brianna Baysek kept the momentum going with a massive block to give Richmond a 20-15 lead. But the Lady Fighting Scots weren’t quite finished; they rallied back to bring the score to 23-20, forcing Wimpey to call a timeout of her own.
Out of the timeout, Scotland’s Ashley McGugan and Carleigh Carter picked up a combined block to cut the Richmond lead to one point. But Richmond maintained its composure, a characteristic that has defined the team all year, and finished the game on a junior outside hitter Savannah Lampley dig that was set by senior Mackenzie Webb and then drilled home by Griffin.
Complimenting Griffin’s performance were several players, with Lampley and senior middle hitter Owen Bowers each tallying four kills. Baysek picked up the two remaining kills. Richmond also found some luck at the serving line, with Griffin serving two aces, and Lampley and Webb adding one each. Webb finished the night with 27 assists.
On the defensive side of the ball, 10 Lady Raiders tallied a dig, but it was Griffin who led the way with 13. Lampley and sophomore defensive specialist Layne Maultsby each racked up 10 digs, respectively. The team’s four total blocks came courtesy of Baysek (2), Bowers (1) and sophomore outside hitter Allexis Swiney (1).
“We passed really well tonight out of the back row which set up Bri, Owen and Altman on offense,” Maultsby said. “We just need to keep passing well and play to the best of our ability.”
The third set saw moments of desperation runs by Scotland, but it wasn’t able to break the mojo of Richmond. Following a 7-0 Lady Raiders run to take the score to 11-4, Wheeler called another timeout, which resulted in two of Scotland’s lengthiest scoring stretches of the night (a 5-0 run and a 2-0 run). Richmond persisted and won the match despite dropping seven of the final 13 points.
The SAC tournament championship match is set, as Richmond will host Moore County’s Pinecrest High School on Wednesday night. The No. 2-seeded Lady Patriots defeated No. 3-seeded Jack Britt High School in the semifinal round Tuesday night.
“We’re expecting to win (Wednesday),” Wimpey said with a smile. “This will be the third time we play Pinecrest. They know to expect from us, we know what to expect from them. It’s going to come down to who goes out and plays defense.”
Wednesday’s championship match is schedule for 6 p.m. in Raiders Gymnasium. Wimpey and assistant coach Ashleigh Larsen invite Lady Raiders fans out to “pack the gym” as Richmond looks to continue its historic run.