SOUTHERN PINES — Richmond’s thrilling run through the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament came to an end in the semifinal round on Tuesday.
Just a day after the No. 5 Lady Raiders bounced Scotland in a thrilling five-set win, they were eliminated by No. 1 Pinecrest.
Pinecrest, which hasn’t lost a set in 13 SAC matches this fall, defeated Richmond 3-0. Scores were 12-25, 23-25 and 15-25.
Although it was a sweep, head coach Ashleigh Larsen said her team showed improvement and that she was pleased with the way the Lady Raiders battled in all three sets.
“The girls showed a huge improvement tonight,” Larsen said. “We really started playing together really well in the second set, and I think collectively as a whole unit we played a lot better tonight.
“A lot of our energy spilled over from last night,” she added. “Unfortunately, we made just a few more errors than Pinecrest did. Pinecrest made smart decisions and moved around our blocks, but the girls did a great job digging them up.”
Three Lady Raiders recorded double-digit digs — junior libero Allie Rodgers (20), senior defensive specialist Joy Styles (14) and sophomore setter Ava Edmondson (13). Junior hitter Jenna Gardner added 8 digs.
Richmond played from behind for most of the first set, but kept its deficit to a couple of points early on. Junior hitter Christi Jacobs had a kill and an ace and kills from senior middle hitter Catherine Dennis and junior middle hitter Katie Way kept it within five points.
Trailing 15-8, Larsen called a timeout. Dennis responded with one of her team-high 6 kills and senior hitter Quston Leviner served up an ace. But a 10-2 run by Pinecrest closed the first.
Using a Dennis block, a Gardner ace and three errors, the Lady Raiders jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set. Battling out to four ties, a perfect serve from Edmondson, a Dennis spike and a pair of kills by Jacobs made it a 17-15 lead.
A 7-0 run by Pinecrest erased the home team’s deficit and put the Lady Patriots up 22-17. But using several errors, Richmond kept pace to go on a 5-0 spurt and tie the set. Way added one of her three kills in the match, but Pinecrest escaped to take a two-set lead.
Again taking advantage of miscues by the Lady Patriots, Richmond stayed competitive and trailed 15-10 midway through the third stanza. Down the stretch, Dennis notched her final two kills and both Way and Leviner had one apiece.
Down 20-15, Richmond called a timeout, but Pinecrest advanced in the tournament thanks to a 5-0 run.
The Lady Patriots (21-2, 13-0 SAC) will face No. 2 Union Pines for the SAC tournament title on Wednesday.
Entering play, Richmond (9-14, 5-9 SAC) was ranked as the No. 30 team in the NCHSAA’s 4A East playoff bracket, one of the last five teams projected to make the postseason.
Larsen said the team will have to “wait and see” how the final brackets shake out, which will happen on Thursday. Richmond hasn’t made the state playoffs since 2019.
“I told the girls I’m excited to see what happens in the playoffs, if we get in, with the way we’re playing right now,” Larsen closed. “We’ll practice tomorrow and stay ready.”
The Richmond Observer will publish information about the playoffs when they’re made available.