RAEFORD — An unexpected turn of events early in Tuesday’s match didn’t stop the Lady Raider volleyball team from staying perfect in Sandhills Athletic Conference play.
Extending its winning streak to a season-long three matches in a row, Richmond picked up its second straight SAC win.
On the road at Hoke County High School, the Lady Raiders cruised to a 3-0 win, their third sweep in eight matches this fall.
Despite losing freshman middle hitter Riley McDonald to injury in the first set, Richmond won by set scores of 25-23, 25-15 and 25-15.
McDonald’s departure forced Richmond’s hand, as head coach Ashleigh Larsen started a game of musical chairs that ultimately worked out in her team’s favor.
Relying on senior starting middle hitter Katie Way at the net, Larsen moved fellow senior Addyson Hollingsworth, an outside hitter, to the middle with no prior experience.
Later in the match, senior outside hitter MaKailah Jackson provided depth from the middle hitter position, which she has played in past seasons.
“The big thing tonight was the girls’ ability to adapt and overcome,” Larsen said. “We were in a position of losing a starter in the middle and had to make changes on the fly. I’m proud of Addyson for playing middle hitter with no experience, for MaKailah filling in without much practice there and of all the girls for adjusting.
“We had to learn to cover without Riley, who is one of our major blockers,” she added. “Collectively, the girls went out there and had fun, which is the mentality they should have when playing.”
Early in the first, Hoke County led by as many as five points. Trailing 6-11, Richmond slowly chipped away at the lead and took its first lead of the set 18-17 on an ace from senior defensive specialist Jenna Gardner.
Richmond extended its lead to 24-19 before Hoke County scored four straight points. But a spike attempt sailed out of bounds to give Richmond the two-point set win.
In the second stanza, the Lady Raiders rolled out to a 7-2 lead, using mostly Hoke County miscues. The Lady Bucks (3-5, 0-2 SAC) closed the gap to 9-7, but from there it was all Richmond.
A kill from senior Christi Jacobs and an ace from senior Keyoni Nichols highlighted a 4-0 run. The two teams traded points until it was 19-14 in favor of the Lady Raiders.
Richmond scored three straight points, again with Nichols serving. Way contributed a kill to that run and recorded another moments later to build the lead to 23-15.
A Gardner ace and a Hoke County error accounted for the final two points of the set and Richmond moved ahead to 2-0 in the series.
With the sizable lead, the Lady Raiders shut out the Lady Bucks with another smooth set in the third. Hollingsworth contributed two hard kills as part of a 5-1 run to start the third.
Way, Hollingsworth and Jackson dominated the net, combining for eight kills and five blocks during a series of runs that put Richmond ahead 19-10. The teams traded points from there, resulting in a 25-15 win.
“Our hitters played smart and placed the ball well,” Larsen closed. “I thought our passes were much better and everything went in our favor tonight.
“The girls were hustling and didn’t give up their drive. It was that relentless pursuit of not wanting to do something to cost us the game.”
Richmond (5-3, 2-0 SAC) will hit the road again on Thursday and face another conference opponent in Union Pines High School (5-3, 1-1 SAC). Action is slated to begin around 6 p.m.
JV Lady Raiders fall to Hoke County
Unable to stay perfect in conference play, the Richmond junior varsity volleyball team fell in three sets on Tuesday.
Losing 2-1, set scores were 25-23, 10-25 and 13-15.
“We came out with a lot of energy and excitement in the first game,” head coach Melissa Dennis said. “We made really smart plays at the net and we were able to shut down their big hitters.
“In the second game we made some serve receive errors in the beginning and dug ourselves in a hole that we just couldn’t get back.”
The JV Lady Raiders (5-3, 1-1 SAC) will look to get back in the win column on Thursday on the road at Union Pines. Play will begin at 5 p.m.
Sports editor’s note: Deon Cranford contributed game information and details to this article. No official stats were available at the time of publication.