ROCKINGHAM — Since the Richmond Senior High School girls’ tennis team began practicing three weeks ago, head coach Jessica Covington has been impressed with the direction the program is headed.
The Lady Raiders are set to become the fourth of six fall sports programs to start their season this week, joining the football, soccer and volleyball teams.
After graduating seven seniors last year, including four of whom were in the starting rotation, Richmond will look to rebuild its roster this season.
Covington, who enters her third year as the girls’ tennis coach, believes the athleticism on this year’s roster will yield positive results within the Sandhills Athletic Conference.
Returning starters this fall will be senior Neely Turner and junior Hanna Smith. Last season, Turner and Smith were the No. 2 and No. 4 singles players, respectively, and are set to become Richmond’s top two singles seeds this year.
A four-year player, Turner will be a major contributor and start for the fourth season in a row. Similarly, Smith is a three-year returning starter.
Other returners on the 11-player roster include senior Ella Scott, junior Madi Grimes and sophomore Jentry Denson. All three players, who saw some action in 2022, will accept a larger role in singles and doubles play this fall.
Rounding out the team are six newcomers, all of whom Covington said show promise in adding depth to the rotation.
Those players who will battle to fill out the singles and doubles competition are seniors Lexi Medlin and Jaelyn Monroe, junior Kenleigh Parker, sophomore Presley Dawkins and freshmen Colbie Covington and Ella Edwards.
While no definitive starting rotation is set, Covington said the players will battle each week to determine singles seeding. Doubles teams are also in the process of being finalized, as both lineups could change week to week.
A season ago, the Lady Raiders finished with a 6-6 overall record and finished in the middle of the SAC standings. Turner and former player Hana Oki made it to the semifinal round of doubles play in the SAC tournament.
Covington said the goal is to remain competitive this fall, noting the team has what it takes to finish near the top of the conference.
Richmond will have to contend with Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools, which finished first and second last year.
The Lady Raiders will open with two home matches this week, starting with a match against Southern Lee High School on Tuesday.
That will be followed by another home contest on Thursday against Pinecrest. Both matches will begin at 4 p.m.
The Richmond Observer will continue its award-winning coverage of the girls’ tennis team this fall.