Monday, 09 November 2020 13:55

Lady Raiders dial in, prepare for lone pre-season scrimmage

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Senior Shelly Hoffman tries to block a kill attempt by fellow senior Jakerra Covington during a recent workout. Senior Shelly Hoffman tries to block a kill attempt by fellow senior Jakerra Covington during a recent workout. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Ashleigh Larsen, Richmond Senior High School’s head volleyball coach, has been keeping fans updated with a countdown until the team’s season opener on Nov. 17.

That number is now down to just eight days.

With just over a week left until the Lady Raiders hit the hardwood for their first competitive match since the 4A state playoffs last October, a span lasting 12 months and 23 days, the program is in the final stages of getting back up to match speed.

The volleyball program has held voluntary workouts since the beginning of August, and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association opened the official start of the season last Wednesday. 

The Lady Raiders had three days of tryouts last week, with 11 players named to the varsity team and 12 players added to the junior varsity roster.

“Tryouts went well. The girls have worked hard for the last 12 weeks,” Larsen explained. “It was a tough decision but we had to make cuts based on the number we could compile onto one bus to save some money in our budget. 

“We highly encouraged those who did not make it to return next year to try out again. It was tough being restricted on numbers.”

Former Lady Raider volleyball player Madelyn Chappell will serve as Larsen’s varsity assistant this fall, while junior varsity head coach Melissa Dennis is back for her second season. 

Voluntary workouts didn’t allow for the program to work on much more than the fundamentals of the game, beginning with outdoor workouts before transitioning indoors. Now that the official season is underway, Larsen is making use of the short transition period and shifting the program’s focus on the 14-game season that sits on the horizon.

That packed schedule includes a scrimmage against Uwharrie Charter Academy, a usual non-conference opponent, on Thursday.

“With minimal time to prepare before our scrimmage, we have a lot to work on,” Larsen said. “JV will spend time discussing serve-receive, positions and other components of a game. Varsity will spend a day on serve-receive, a day of defense and a day of offense with some personnel in new positions just to be prepared for the scrimmage. 

“Each day we will build from the previous day to hopefully prepare the girls as much as possible.”

By implementing more team-specific schemes on offense and defense, as well as acclimating players to new positions and roles, Larsen hopes the season will see the puzzle pieces fall into place.

Some of those players include seniors Georgia Grace Anderson (middle hitter), Taylor Chappell (outside hitter), Emy Cooley (libero), Jakerra Covington (middle hitter), Kelly Hoffman (outside hitter) and Shelly Hoffman (setter).

Anderson, Chappell and Covington will all return for their senior season after having starting roles last year. Cooley picked up significant minutes off the bench as a junior, and the Hoffmans will look to make a dent as regular starters this fall.

Larsen noted that even though the window to prepare for the conference-only season is small, returning to normalcy with something as simple as a scrimmage will put the Lady Raiders on track to have a successful campaign.

“Having a game-like situation with jerseys and officials will definitely help the girls settle in,” Larsen said of the scrimmage. “The younger girls will learn what is expected of them during games and probably have some calls made to ensure they understand the differences in the jump to the high school level of sports. 

“It also helps the coaches put in different lineups to see what works and what might not. All of this still continues to change from game to game since each team we see is different.”

The Lady Raiders will open their season next Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Purnell Swett High School. ROSports will publish a full season preview in the coming days. 

Last modified on Monday, 09 November 2020 14:04
Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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