FAYETTEVILLE – It’s hard not to notice what the Richmond Senior High School varsity volleyball team is doing. The Lady Raiders, for the first time since head coach Shellie Wimpey took over the program in 2010, have won eight consecutive games to begin the season.
In continuing their longest such winning streak in the last decade, the Lady Raiders played for the third night in a row, traveling to Jack Britt High School in Cumberland County. Richmond (8-0, 3-0 Sandhills Athletic Conference) handled its business, knocking off the Lady Buccaneers (5-2, 2-1) in four games 25-13, 22-25, 25-12 and 25-18.
By surpassing last season’s longest winning streak by one game (which came in the latter part of the season before losing in the 4A state playoffs), the Lady Raiders played their toughest opponent (based on overall record) of the year. Following its game plan, Richmond came out in the first game “fast and with a lot of intensity.”
“Tonight, like we’ve done all season, we came out prepared to play,” Wimpey said. “In the first game, we played hard and moved the ball really well. Allexis (Swiney) and Savannah (Lampley) did a fantastic job covering tips and getting balls up for our hitters.”
Senior outside hitter Altman Griffin racked up the kills and digs, finishing with a game-high 16 kills, 10 digs and two aces. Senior middle hitter Owen Bowers had five kills and four digs, and Lampley had four kills, three aces and three digs. Senior middle hitter Brianna Baysek added three kills to the mix.
Defensively for the Raiders, sophomore libero Layne Maultsby had a team-high 13 digs. Swiney finished the night with two kills and six digs.
In the second game, Wimpey’s team appeared to be “stuck,” as lost its a set for the first time in four matches. As noted previously, Richmond has repeatedly struggled to strike as hard in the second game of matches as it does in the first. Richmond didn’t move the ball nearly as well as it did in the previous game, and Jack Britt made adjustments that went unaddressed by the Lady Raiders.
Making adjustments of its own, Richmond returned to game one’s form, and didn’t allow Jack Britt to take another set. Regrouping the Lady Raiders were a multitude of players, but none more than its core of seniors, including Baysek, Bowers, Mackenzie Webb and Griffin.
Wimpey also credited Webb, who is a senior setter, for doing a great job of setting the ball from the back row when an initial first pass wasn’t done well. Webb, who struggled with this task as a junior, dished out 23 assists, and picked up three aces and eight digs in helping Richmond regain its composure in the latter games.
“Altman had a strong presence tonight at the front of the net, and hit the ball hard all night,” Wimpey said. “Bri and Owen also picked up play in the third and fourth games, getting some blocks and touches, which allowed us to play the ball out of the back row. Layne also made adjustments and had much better passes.”
In 2016, Richmond had a subpar record through its first eight games, tallying a 3-2-3 record. Wimpey knows that this year’s start is a result of her players’ desire to repeated as SAC champions, and match its undefeated record in conference play.
Also winning its third match of the week was the junior varsity team, as the Lady Raiders (6-2) won games one and three 25-19 and 25-12, respectively. Jack Britt took the middle set 25-22.
Head coach Ashleigh Larsen noted that her three starting sophomores held the team together. Setter Carley Lambeth recorded 13 assists, six digs, two aces and one kill. Outside hitters Madison Jordan had a season-high seven digs, while Jasmine Ewing four kills, three digs and one ace.
“We got things started well,” Larsen said. “But the girls beat themselves in the second game. They let Jack Britt get back in the match, but we were able to make adjustments at the break. The third set was the best I’ve seen my girls play all season.”
Richmond will return to play with three matches next week following a break for Labor Day. The Lady Raiders will play Tuesday, Sept. 5, on the road at SAC opponent Hoke County High School (6 p.m.), and will visit non-conference opponent Union Pines on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 5:30 p.m. They’ll wrap up the week at home, hosting SAC foe Lumberton on Thursday, Sept. 7, with the start time slated for 6 p.m.