Home Local Sports SEASON PREVIEW: Lady Raiders ‘excited’ for new spring slate

SEASON PREVIEW: Lady Raiders ‘excited’ for new spring slate

Senior Kaylee Parker returns a ball during a practice match against freshman Neely Turner on Friday.
Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior High School’s girls’ tennis team has had the longest layoff between seasons than any other program during the modified athletic calendar. But now the Lady Raiders are back this week.

Second-year head coach Neely Herndon and the Lady Raiders begin their 12-match regular season on Monday with two matches against Purnell Swett High School. 

Like the boys’ tennis season that just wrapped up, all matches will be against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents and will be played as doubleheaders.

“A lot of time has definitely passed since last season, but I think the girls are excited to jump back in,” Herndon said. “I’ve had a good group of girls come out to practice the past two weeks and some just finished up other sports, so it is an interesting season.

“I have had 14 girls attend practice and I am expecting one more once the soccer season concludes,” she added. “I am hoping that my returning players will serve as leaders for the team.”

Junior Paris Almon, who returns for her second season, hits a ball back during practice on Friday.

Herndon noted this year’s team is a mixture of returning players grouped with an influx of fresh faces who are new to the sport.

Among those returning are seniors Kearston Bruce, Natalie Pattan and Kaylee Parker, juniors Paris Almon and Ellie Buck, and sophomore Maren Carter.

New to the team this year are juniors Kirsten McDonald, Jenna McRae and Mariah Waddell, sophomores Rachel Martin and Addison Massey, along with freshmen Kaylyn Maddix, Kyleigh Morrison, Neely Turner and Katie Way.


A season ago, Bruce was the Lady Raiders’ No. 1 seed and Parker played her matches as the No. 3 seed. Almon floated between the No. 4 and No. 5 matches, and Buck anchored the team in the No. 6 singles competitions. 

Herndon said that the team’s focus during the pre-season has been working on the fundamentals of the sport, while also getting comfortable on the court.

“Having a lot of new girls to join the team, we have been focusing on basic fundamentals,” Herdon explained. “We have spent a lot of our time the past two weeks working on serving and returns. 

“We are using the time we have to focus on rules and skill development,” she added. “I have a lot of girls who are new to the sport and I want them to feel comfortable during practice and in game situations.”

In 2019, the Lady Raiders finished 4-8 against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents and tied with Hoke County for fifth place.

Richmond picked up solo wins against Hoke County and Purnell Swett, while sweeping Lumberton. 

“I hope everyone has fun while learning the game of tennis,” Herndon closed. “And I want everyone to go out and give their best.”

The Lady Raiders will host Purnell Swett on Monday with singles matches beginning at 4 p.m. 

Junior Kirsten McDonald is one of nine newcomers to the Lady Raider tennis team this spring.

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Kyle Pillar is a nine-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.