Tuesday, 22 October 2019 23:48

'Relentless pursuit,' stout defense guides No. 3 Richmond past No. 2 Scotland, returns to SAC title match

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Cheers all around for the No. 3 Lady Raiders, who bounced No. 2 Scotland to return to the SAC tournament title match. Cheers all around for the No. 3 Lady Raiders, who bounced No. 2 Scotland to return to the SAC tournament title match. Jennie Maultsby — The Richmond Observer.

LAURINBURG — There were several Richmond Senior High School volleyball fans sporting brooms during Tuesday’s second round matchup of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament — and for good reason.

The No. 3 Lady Raiders rolled in Scotland High School and bounced the No. 2 Lady Fighting Scots from the postseason competition, sweeping the home team in the upset win. It marked the second time in five days that Richmond beat Scotland in straight sets, and served as the season series’ rubber match.

Playing their second tournament match in as many nights, the Lady Raiders advanced to the SAC tournament championship game for the second time in three years. Sets scores Tuesday were 25-19, 25-23 and 25-20.

The 2019 title match is set, which will see Richmond (19-5) try to dethrone current No. 1 seed Pinecrest High School (24-1). The Lady Patriots squeaked out a four-set win against No. 4 Jack Britt High School in the second round, extending their winning streak to 16 matches.

It’ll be a rematch of the 2017 SAC tournament championship game, a 3-0 Lady Raider win that capped a 25-0 regular and conference postseason run. That was the last time Richmond has beaten Pinecrest.

Like it has down the home stretch of the season, Raider Nation showed its support for head coach Ashleigh Larsen and the Lady Raider players, filling the bleachers at Scotland. The “home court atmosphere” is something Larsen credited to helping her team perform the way it did.

“The crowd’s impact was huge tonight, especially playing on the road,” Larsen said after the match. “Scotland (16-9) always has a big student section at every home and away game, but it was really good to put our fans’ energy to good use on the court. I think it really motivated the girls and helped them remain aggressive.”

While the offense carried the weight of the scoring for the Lady Raiders, it was the defense that quieted Scotland’s comeback attempt and maintained momentum in Richmond’s favor.

Senior libero Layne Maultsby stood tall in the back row and racked up a season-high 30 digs, helping create assist opportunities for senior setter Carley Lambeth (22 assists). Maultsby recorded an impressive 16 digs in the final set to preserve the win. 

Behind her were seniors Jadyn Johnson (19 digs) and Lambeth (16 digs), who combined for 35 of the team’s season-high 90 digs. Also having one of her best nights of the fall was junior defensive specialist Emy Cooley, who wasn’t afraid to hit the hardwood to collect 12 digs.

“Our defense had a big game tonight, especially Layne, Jadyn, Carley and Emy,” Larsen explained. “The girls adjusted to cover Scotland’s hitters. We also made some adjustments we saw from our game last week to pick up their hitters. It was a big night all around.”

Both teams started the first set strong, rolling out to a 15-15 tie. Back-to-back hitting errors by Scotland’s Kadence Sheppard and Carleigh Carter gave Richmod a two-point lead and forced head coach Mallory Wheeler to call the first of her two timeouts in the opening set.

Out of the break, junior middle hitter Georgia Grace Anderson started an 8-4 run to close the set with a kill past a diving Carter. On the next volley, Cooley made an athletic dig to set up an Anderson push over the net.

Two Scotland hits went into the net, and an attempt by Kamdyn Morgan went long, giving the Lady Raiders a 23-16 lead. A hitting error by Kate Carter made it set point, and Jadyn Johnson got the winner with a kill along the left side, crushing the ball just over a block attempt by Morgan and Angelle Norton.

Scotland responded with an early 3-1 lead in the second set, but a kill from senior Madison Jordan and two kills from lefty junior right side hitter Taylor Chappell gave the Lady Raiders a 6-5 advantage. Junior middle hitter Jakerra Covington joined the action with her lone block of the night to give Richmond a 15-8 lead and Scotland called another pause in the action.

Back and forth play saw the Lady Raiders open their lead to 23-16, but Carter made things interesting late. She started an 8-0 Scotland run from the serving line, which included a Norton kill and several Richmond miscues. 

Larsen called a timeout when her team’s lead was cut to three points, 23-20, but three straight errors out of the break saw Scotland tie the set. Another Richmond timeout was called, and this time it worked. Carter saw her ensuing serve hit the net, and a Carleigh Carter attempt on the next volley was short, ending the second stanza.

The final frame saw four early ties, but the Lady Raiders took a 7-5 lead courtesy of an Anderson kill and a Cooley ace. Most of the set was played in close quarters, seeing the Lady Raiders hold a two or three-point lead before Scotland tied it at 13 points thanks to an Asjah Swindell kill.

Jordan had a strong third set with several strong hits at the net and was rewarded with a kill to make it a two-point Lady Raider lead. Tied at 17-all, Richmond jumped ahead 20-17 and closed the match on an 8-3 run with Cooley at the serving line to end Scotland’s title hopes. 

“With us promoting ‘relentless pursuit’ this season, the girls never gave up tonight and haven’t given up all season,” Larsen said. “They’re playing with a new level of confidence and have found a drive to motivate them late in the season. 

“I told the girls at practice I’d rather see them go up swinging and miss than try tipping the ball at the net,” she added. “Tonight they showed they’ve bought into that and were a lot more aggressive to try and score points. We’re also getting smarter at where we’re sending balls and that was a big advantage tonight.”

The Lady Raiders recorded 24 total kills, with Anderson (8) and Johnson (6) leading the way. At the serving line, Jordan notched a team-high four aces of Richmond’s 11 perfect serves.

“With the confidence the girls are playing with and the fact they believe in themselves 110 percent right now, we can beat Pinecrest,” Larsen closed. “The newfound mindset will help us them, as they’re a smart a team with girls who can hit and good defense.”

First serve in the SAC tournament title match is set for 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Southern Pines.

Kyle Pillar

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

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

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