Wednesday, 23 October 2019 23:20

Larsen 'proud' of Lady Raiders' runner-up finish in SAC tournament championship

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Junior Jakerra Covington tips a ball during the third set of Wednesday's SAC tournament championship match. Junior Jakerra Covington tips a ball during the third set of Wednesday's SAC tournament championship match. Jennie Maultsby — The Richmond Observer.

SOUTHERN PINES — The proverbial clock struck a few minutes early for the Richmond Senior High School volleyball team, seeing its Cinderella run through the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament end in a runner-up finish.

On the road at No. 1 Pinecrest High School, the No. 3 Lady Raiders’ effort to dethrone the Lady Patriots came up just short, ending in a 3-0 decision in the championship match. Richmond was in contention for much of the back-and-forth affair, but late runs by Pinecrest resulted in set scores of 18-25, 19-25 and 21-25.

Tuesday’s match made it the second time in three seasons the Lady Raiders competed for the SAC tournament title, going 1-1 between the two contests. A bevy of Lady Raider fans also made trip to Southern Pines, something head coach Ashleigh Larsen has continued to tip her cap to this postseason.

To get to the title match, Richmond (19-6) defeated No. 6 Purnell Swett High School on Monday and upset No. 2 rival Scotland High School on Tuesday. Both matches were straight-set wins.

“The girls were tired, and it was unfortunate that we had to play three nights in a row,” Larsen noted after the match. “Despite making some unusual mental errors, the girls managed to keep the scores really close. 

“There were a couple of times where we could have found a spark and maybe win some sets,” she added. “But we ended up digging ourselves into holes, and just couldn’t get things rolling offensively. We were missing that extra edge we had the last couple of matches against Scotland and Purnell Swett.”

Pinecrest opened the first set with a 5-2 lead, but a 5-1 spurt by the Lady Raiders gave them a 7-5 advantage. Junior middle hitter Jakerra Covington made nice block on Lexi Allen, and senior Madison Jordan and juniors Georgia Grace Anderson and Taylor Chappell all recorded kills off the hands of Pinecrest’s middle hitter Chloe Modlin.

Both squads traded points for the rest of the set, with Pinecrest holding a small lead for most of the time. Senior libero Layne Maultsby made a diving dig to set up and Anderson kill to cut the Lady Raiders’ deficit to 18-16. But that was the closest they’d get late in the set, as Pinecrest closed on a 7-3 run to take the opening stanza.

Set No. 2 saw the Lady Patriots roll out to an 11-2 lead, seeing Larsen call a timeout to calm her team’s nerves. Over the next 10 series, Richmond would chip away at the score and pull within three points, 13-10, using multiple errors from Allen and Modlin. Maultsby closed the run at the serving line for six straight points, including an Anderson kill.

The run forced Scott Shepherd to call a timeout of his own, and the two teams did battle with Pinecrest getting a slight 23-18 edge. Two miscommunications by the Lady Raiders resulted in two errors, effectively ending the set in favor of the Lady Patriots.

Like the second set, the third stanza began with a Pinecrest run that opened the score to 9-2. Covington recorded a kill to help turn things around, seeing Anderson record two kills and Jordan add another. Those points were assisted by several Pinecrest errors, including an out of rotation violation and another Allen hitting error into the net.

Trailing by just two points, 14-12, the Lady Raiders forced another Pinecrest timeout. Richmond continued to chip away at the scoreboard, as Covington made a block on Sophi Galford and Jadyn Johnson drilled home a kill along the left side. 

Anderson added a kill late off the hands of Madi Ringley, and her and Chappell teamed up to stuff an Allen kill attempt on the next series. Still, it wasn’t quite enough, as a couple of miscues led to the match-winning point for Pinecrest (25-1).

“I thought we did a good job fighting back after making some mistakes,” Larsen reflected. “Georgia Grace had a big in third set swinging away. But we let Pinecrest serve us off the court a couple of times. We had decent passes, we just couldn’t adjust to them moving the ball sideline to sideline.

“There were bits and pieces where we looked pretty good,” she closed. “Regardless of the outcome, I’m so proud of all the girls. They came together these past three nights and made a lot of awesome plays. They were relaxing and having fun, and there was lots of excitement on the court. It’s good to see it all come together before the playoffs.”

Richmond recorded five aces in the loss, getting two each from Maultsby and Jordan. From the net, of the team’s 20 total kills, Anderson had a team-high seven. Covington and Johnson both finished with four kills, Chappell added three and Jordan had two.

On defense, the Lady Raiders tallied 54 digs, seeing three players hit double digits. Maultsby led the way with 14 digs, followed by Johnson (12) and Anderson (11). Senior setter Carley Lambeth contributed seven digs and 20 assists, while Covington had a team-best two blocks.

Now the Lady Raiders will wait for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to release its official 4A playoff brackets on Thursday. Preliminary polls have the Lady Raiders in the middle of the field with a home match, but Larsen said it’s a waiting game until her team’s spot is finalized. The first round of the state playoffs will begin on Saturday.

Kyle Pillar

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

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