Wednesday, 16 October 2019 13:32

Lady Raider Season Recap: Herndon's first year a 'learning experience'

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The 2019 Lady Raider tennis team earned four wins during a 'learning experience' for all nine players. The 2019 Lady Raider tennis team earned four wins during a 'learning experience' for all nine players. Michelle Parrish — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — In the span of just nine short weeks, the Richmond Senior High School girls’ tennis team and head coach Neely Herndon experienced their first season together. And for the first-year head coach, it was an eventful and productive fall.

When the team first convened on the tennis courts at the high school for the first day of tryouts in early August, the Lady Raiders were a band of nine inexperienced players. However, throughout the season, Herndon watched as her team learned the sport and developed into a close-knit unit willing to contest its opponents.

A major focus this season, Herndon explained, was the game’s fundamentals, seeing the Lady Raiders get better at serving, hitting and learning the rules of the sport.

Richmond would finish with a 4-9 overall record, and posted a 4-8 mark against Sandhills Athletic Conference opponents. While it was a step back from last season’s 12-win record, the Lady Raiders underwent a rebuilding phase after losing five seniors and their only returner. The four wins were good enough to see the team finish in fifth place.

This year’s team was led by a series of underclassmen, beginning with No. 1 junior Kearston Bruce and No. 2 sophomore O’cean Bennett. Rounding out the regulars in singles competition were No. 3 junior Kaylee Parker, No. 4 sophomore Elizabeth Henry, No. 5 sophomore Paris Almon and No. 6 sophomore Ellie Buck.

Contributing off the bench and playing a handful of doubles matches were juniors Kacie Medina and Natalie Pattan, along with freshman Maren Carter.

“The season was a learning experience for all,” Herndon explained. “The girls showed continuous improvement throughout the season and we were able to compete with other teams in the conference.  

“While we did not have a winning season, the girls seemed to enjoy coming to practice and playing,” she added. “I hope that the girls continue to practice in the offseason so that we may be more competitive next year.”

After dropping their first four matches of the season without winning a singles or doubles match, the Lady Raiders started to show improvement against Scotland High School in mid-September. In that match, Richmond won its first three individual matches of the year, seeing Henry earn the team’s first singles’ win. Almon, Buck, Parker and Henry would combine to win two doubles matches.

The eventual loss would spark the team’s first win of the year, a 5-4 decision over Purnell Swett High School on Sept. 17. Almon and Buck each picked up her first respective singles win ahead of the Lady Raiders sweeping doubles action for the come-from-behind victory.

Richmond’s best stretch of the season came a week later, as the Lady Raiders put together a season-long three-match winning streak. Two wins came against Lumberton High School and the other was a season series split with Hoke County High School. In the first match against the Lady Pirates on Sept. 25, the Lady Raiders swept singles play with all six players earning a win. It would also be the team’s biggest win of the fall, a 7-2 decision.

Richmond would out-perform Lumberton and Hoke County 6-3 in both matches for its final wins of the season. The Lady Raiders would also have their top six players qualify for the SAC tournament, but no one advanced to the regional tournament.

Henry would be responsible for the team’s best individual singles record with six wins in the No. 5 slot. She also played four matches as the No. 4 player and finished with a 6-7 overall record. 

Next in line was Buck with four singles wins and a 4-9 overall record, followed by three singles wins each from Bruce (3-10) and Parker (3-10). Almon and Bennett each won two of their respective singles matches.

Doubles play was a strong area this season, using the No. 3 duo of Almon and Henry to record a winning record of 5-2. Buck and Parker, who are cousins, found chemistry on the court in the No. 2 pairing, adding three more wins to the Lady Raiders’ slate. Across all the other combinations, Richmond notched three wins to bring its doubles total to 11 on the season.

With her and her team’s first season officially in the books, Herndon is already looking toward a successful fall next year.

“If they choose to play again next season, we will have nine players returning,” Herndon closed. “If they continue to practice, we will be a stronger team.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 October 2019 13:39

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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