ROCKINGHAM — Following its most successful season to date, the Richmond Senior High School bowling program hopes to keep the pins flying this winter.
Things will look a little different this season for the Raiders and Lady Raiders, starting at the top with a coaching change.
After five seasons with the team, former coach Ralph Butler has been replaced by first-year coaches Chris and Ashleigh Larsen. The Larsens also coach soccer and volleyball, respectively, at the high school.
Another big change will be for the Lady Raiders’ team, which graduated all but one of its bowlers from last season.
The Raiders are in better shape, bringing back four starters from last season. There are also two other returners to the program who will look to make an impact.
Richmond, and the six other Sandhills Athletic Conference teams, will bowl against each other twice during the regular season. All matches will follow the Baker format, which will see five bowlers roll two frames apiece during each match.
Rolling four games in each match, a point is awarded for each victory. The team that has the highest pin total will also receive another point for a possibility of five points, which determines the conference standings.
Raiders return several starters in hunt for state title
The Raider bowling team had a successful postseason run last year, finishing as the state runner-up to SAC foe Scotland High School.
After taking third place in the regular-season standings, Richmond also had James Eason place 13th overall in the individual state tournament. Now a senior, Eason is joined by three other returners from last year — juniors Landon Summerlin, Landon Taylor and Sam Thompson.
Gone this year to graduation is William White, who was the team’s anchor the last several seasons. White earned 11th place in the state’s individual championship.
A season ago, the Raiders averaged 165.5 pins per game and averaged 661.8 pins per match en route to a 10-2 overall record.
Looking to build off that, Eason will likely serve as the anchor for the team in the fifth and 10th frames.
Summerlin, Taylor and Thompson are expected to take on three of the four remaining lineup spots. Sophomores Azariah Daniel and Owen Hancock are two returners who will help fill the void.
Newcomers this season include seniors Jabari Douglas and Tobey Lunceford, junior Trace Davis and sophomore Hayden Wheeler.
Lady Raiders led by Thompson, team’s only returner
Last season, the Lady Raiders won their first-ever Sandhills Athletic Conference championship and bowled their way to a third-place finish at the state tournament.
The only returner this winter will be junior Ava Thompson, a three-year starter, who also finished eighth in the individual state championship as a sophomore. That finish named her to the All-State team.
Richmond graduated its other seven female bowlers, including state tournament individual qualifiers Rylie Bohman, Addison Massey and Cadence Thompson.
The most experienced bowler, Ava Thompson will be the starting point for the Lady Raiders this season. The coaching staff anticipates Thompson to anchor the lineup.
Last winter, the Richmond girls’ bowling team averaged 130.8 pins per game, and averaged 523.3 pins per match to roll to an 11-1 overall record.
Contenders to help bolster those averages will be five new bowlers — seniors Dakotah Tschudi, Neely Turner and Katie Way, junior Hanna Smith and sophomore Jentry Denson.
All five are expected to contribute to the lineup, as the Larsens said starting rosters will be solidified for both teams following practices this week.
SCHEDULE: Below is the complete 2023-24 schedule for the Richmond bowling teams. All of the meets are against SAC opponents and will be held in Aberdeen or Laurinburg.
Nov. 30 vs. Southern Lee, Pincrest (Aberdeen) 4 p.m.
Dec. 7 vs. Hoke County, Union Pines (Laurinburg) 4 p.m.
Dec. 14 vs. Lee County, Bye (Aberdeen) 4 p.m.
Jan. 4 vs. Scotland, Southern Lee (Laurinburg) 4 p.m.
Jan. 11 vs. Pinecrest, Hoke County (Aberdeen) 4 p.m.
Jan. 18 vs. Union Pines, Lee County (Laurinburg) 4 p.m.
Jan. 25 vs. Scotland, Bye (Aberdeen) 4 p.m.
Feb. 1 Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament
The Richmond Observer will continue its award-winning coverage of the bowling teams this winter.