Home Local Sports SEASON PREVIEW: Depth key for Lady Raider tennis team in 2022

SEASON PREVIEW: Depth key for Lady Raider tennis team in 2022

Neely Turner (left) and Addison Massey (center) are two of the four returning starters this fall. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM —  Four starters are returning to the lineup for the Richmond Senior High School girls’ tennis team this fall.

Coupled with three other players who also have experience from last year, second-year head coach Jessica Covington expects the Lady Raiders to remain competitive in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.

Richmond is coming off a 4-8 season last fall and will be without four seniors, including former No. 1 player Paris Almon. The others were starter Kirsten McDonald, Jenna McRae and Mariah Waddell.

Covington believes the depth at singles and doubles play, along with five newcomers, will provide the Lady Raiders with a deep rotation as they look to improve.

In order to decide who will compete in which seed of singles and doubles play, Covington will have players battle each week in practice to earn their respective spot.

Highlighting the returning players will be three-year starter Neely Turner, a junior who was the No. 2 singles player last fall. Another three-year player is senior Addison Massey, who was just behind Turner in the No. 3 slot.

Senior Maren Carter, a four-year player, and sophomore Hanna Smith both saw significant playing time in 2021 in the No. 5 and No. 6 slots.

Senior Maren Carter (left) and Hanna Smith (right) are both returning starters this fall. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Also expected to contribute to the team are senior Sheccid Heaton, junior Ella Scott and sophomore Madison Grimes. The trio is coming back with some match play under its belt, adding to the team’s experience. 

New this fall are seniors Rylie Bohman, Ashlyn Bouldin and Savannah Jordan, freshman Jentri Denson and foreign exchange student Hana Oki.

Through the team’s first couple of weeks of practice, Covington said she’s been impressed with how well each member has done, and noted the team has progressed as a whole in a lot of the sport’s fundamentals.

Last season, the Lady Raiders placed fourth in the 3A/4A SAC standings. This year, Covington hopes the team will continue to climb the ladder and contend with the top teams.

Pinecrest High School enters as the reigning conference champion, with Union Pines and Southern Lee finishing ahead of the Lady Raiders in second and third, respectively.

Junior Ella Scott, one of several players looking to contribute this season, works on her forehand. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

The Lady Raiders will officially open their 12-match regular season on Tuesday at Southern Lee High School. Singles play will begin at 4 p.m.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS

Senior Addison Massey

Senior Savannah Jordan

Junior Neely Turner

Head coach Jessica Covington

The Richmond Observer will continue its coverage of the Richmond girls’ tennis team this fall.

A complete schedule is listed below. Home matches are bold and SAC matches are marked with an asterisk.

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Aug. 23 @ Southern Lee *

Aug. 30 vs. Hoke County *

Sept. 1 vs. Union Pines *

Sept. 6 @ Lee County *

Sept. 13 vs. Scotland *

Sept. 15 vs. Southern Lee *

Sept. 20 vs. Pinecrest * (doubleheader)

Sept. 22 @ Hoke County *

Sept. 27 @ Union Pines *

Sept. 29 vs. Lee County *

Oct. 6 @ Scotland *

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.