ROCKINGHAM — The Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament could be the final puzzle piece to help the Lady Raiders return to the postseason.
After finishing the regular season last Thursday alone in fourth place, the Richmond girls’ soccer team will get a first-round tournament game at home on Monday.
Following other SAC teams’ finales on Friday, the Lady Raiders could have faced one of three teams — Hoke County, Southern Lee and Scotland high schools — all of which finished tied for last with a 2-10 SAC record.
No. 4 Richmond will host No. 5 Hoke County (3-16-2, 2-10 SAC) as the result of a tiebreaker.
Winning the regular-season championship was Union Pines High School, which tied with Pinecrest High School, but got the No. 1 seed via a coin flip. The Lady Vikings (13-7-1, 11-1 SAC) will have a first-round bye.
The rest of the bracket is filled out by No. 3 Lee County hosting No. 6 Scotland, and No. 2 Pinecrest playing No. 7 Southern Lee.
The Lady Raiders (12-7-1, 6-6 SAC) defeated the Lady Bucks in both of the teams’ regular-season matches.
On March 21, Richmond won 2-0 at home and followed that with a 2-1 double overtime victory at Hoke County exactly a month later.
Currently a bubble team to make the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A East bracket, head coach Chris Larsen hopes a solid run in the SAC tournament will give the Lady Raiders a chance to extend their season.
The Lady Raiders have made the 4A postseason in each of the last seven seasons (excluding the 2020 pandemic-shortened season).
Despite being the second-place 4A team in the SAC behind Pinecrest (14-5, 11-1 SAC), Richmond isn’t guaranteed an at-large bid due to the NCHSAA’s use of adjusted MaxPreps rankings to determine playoff seeding.
At the time of publication, Richmond is projected as the No. 33 team in the 4A East, one spot from the final postseason seed.
Hence the imperativeness of having a strong showing in the SAC tournament, Larsen noted.
“For us, the more wins we can pick up this week, the better chance we have at making the postseason,” Larsen said. “I think if we do make it, we will be a 31 or 32 seed. The difference between us and surrounding teams is ten-thousandths of a decimal, so we truly will not know until they release the final RPI and brackets.
“But if we end up winning the conference tournament, then we would ensure our ticket for postseason play. We just have to focus this week on the task at hand.”
Winners of their last two matches, the Lady Raiders will carry some momentum into the SAC tournament.
Scoring six goals in each of those two wins, Richmond will try to capitalize early and often against Hoke County.
Heading into the tournament, Richmond is led by senior Cheyenne Jacobs and junior Allie Rodgers with nine goals apiece. Jacobs has scored four goals in the last five matches.
“I’m just hoping that we can show up and play like I know we can this week,” Larsen closed.
“Hoke is always challenging, so I hope the girls learned from the last time we played that we can’t just show up and expect to win. (Hoke’s) record is not an indication of how they are as a team.”
No. 4 Richmond will begin play against No. 5 Hoke County at 6 p.m. on Monday.
The winner would advance to play top-seeded Union Pines.