Home Local Sports PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Lady Raiders eye upset of Middle Creek in first round

PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Lady Raiders eye upset of Middle Creek in first round

No. 29 Richmond will head to No. 4 Middle Creek on Saturday for the first round of the NCHSAA 4A East playoffs. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — For the first time since 2019, the Richmond Senior High School volleyball program is back in the state playoffs.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association released its official playoff brackets around 2 p.m on Thursday and the Lady Raiders earned the No. 29 seed in the 4A East.

As one of the final teams to make the 32-team postseason bid, the Lady Raiders will travel to No. 4 Middle Creek High School on Saturday for the first round.

Teetering on the edge of the playoff window, winning a pivotal match against Scotland High School on Monday in the opening round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament helped Richmond make it.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for our program and for the girls especially,” head coach Ashleigh Larsen said. “They’ve worked really hard to get here and I know they’re not satisfied with last year or how they placed out this season.

“You can see that by how much they’ve improved by the end of season. All of the girls have worked hard to get back in the groove of things. Beating Scotland on Monday helped us and I thought we played well against Pinecrest. We’re all excited moving into the weekend.”

The Seeding Process

For the second straight school year, the NCHSAA used a process that seeds teams based on their rating percentage index (RPI).

According to the NCHSAA’s website, RPI is calculated by using the following formula: RPI = (0.3 x WP) + (0.4 x OWP) + (0.3 x OOWP).

WP stands for a team’s “winning percentage” (divide the number of wins by the number of total games played). 

OWP is the “opponents’ winning percentage” (average the winning percentages of a team’s opponents) and OOWP is the “opponents’ opponents winning percentage” (the same process but for the opponents of a team’s opponents).

There were several issues reported to the NCHSAA, according to its website, regarding the final RPI rankings, resulting in two amended ranking sheets to be released.

The Lady Raiders’ RPI was 0.49618 and had an overall winning percentage of 0.39130. Richmond’s OWP was 0.57276 and its OOWP was 0.49894.


The Match-Up

In what will be the first ever meeting between Richmond (9-14) and the Lady Mustangs (21-2) on the volleyball court, Larsen knows her team will have its work cut out for it.

The Lady Raiders finished the regular season in fifth place in the overall Sandhills Athletic Conference standings, but took second place out of the three 4A schools. In its 23 matches, Richmond won 33 of its 87 sets played.

Middle Creek, coached by Jodi Scoggins, won the outright title in the Southwest Wake Conference with a 13-2 record. Entering the postseason on a six-match winning streak, the Lady Mustangs have won 64 of their 79 total sets.

Key attackers in the playoff opener will be Middle Creek’s Sally Perez (4.9 kills per set) and Richmond’s Catherine Dennis (3.0 kills per set). 

Perez also leads her team in total aces (61) and Jenna Gardner will look to add onto her team-leading 42 aces this season for the Lady Raiders.

Larsen said the key for the Lady Raiders to pull off the upset rests on them being ready to play and believing in themselves.

“Middle Creek is a very aggressive team and has played at a high level of competition this year,” Larsen said. “They play in a really good conference and we know we’re going up against an experienced team.

“But if our girls play the way we know how to, I think we’ll be able to do some damage. Believing in themselves will help us a lot and we expect to make it a competitive match.”

Richmond and Middle Creek will square off on Saturday with first serve set for 4 p.m.

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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.