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Tuesday, 14 September 2021 21:54

Three seniors recognized during SAC match against Lee County

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Senior Saniah Durham (2) registers a kill in the third set of Tuesday's match against Lee County. Senior Saniah Durham (2) registers a kill in the third set of Tuesday's match against Lee County. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Tuesday’s Sandhills Athletic Conference volleyball match was a special night for Richmond’s three senior players, who were recognized for their contributions to the program.

Saniah Durham, Kiersten Gibson and Allyiah Swiney — all multi-year varsity players — were called before a full gymnasium of fans alongside their families ahead of Richmond’s match with Lee County High School.

Having to adjust to another “last-minute lineup change,” the Lady Raiders played Lee County close, but lost in four sets by a final score of 3-1.

Richmond dropped the first set 18-25, then rallied to win the second set 25-23. Larsen said her team “had chances” to take the third and fourth sets, but fell by scores of 21-25 and 18-25.

“I moved Senior Night up so we had a chance to honor the girls in the gym with their families here,” Larsen said. “All three have worked really hard during their time here and I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done. 

“They’ve developed into great leaders for the team, especially during their senior year. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win for them tonight, but all three played the best they could.”

Left to right: Seniors Allyiah Swiney, Saniah Durham and Kiersten Gibson. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Richmond jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first set with junior Joy Styles at the serving line. A one-handed dig by Swiney and a tip by freshman setter Ava Edmundson added to the run.

But Lee County (5-5, 2-2 SAC) rallied on a 10-1 stretch to take the lead. Larsen called a timeout and both teams traded points, with sophomore Katie Way delivering a kill to make it a 15-11 deficit.

The Lady Yellow Jackets closed on a 10-7 run to take the first set.

“We had a big missing piece tonight in our libero not playing,” Swiney explained. “But our middles did really good stepping up and digging up the balls in the back row. Tonight we really had to adjust during each set.

“It’s been a joy to play for Richmond and I’ll always be a Raider,” she added.

The second set saw both teams battle out to a 9-9 tie, with Way delivering a kill to knot the set. Richmond maintained a small lead through the middle points, getting an ace from Swiney and another Way kill.

A soft tip at the net by Way found open space to make it a 19-15 advantage, and on the next volley, Styles lasered a back-row kill to extend Richmond’s lead.

Styles made a dig on a ball a couple of series later for another point, followed by another Swiney ace. With Lee County closing in, junior Catherine Dennis registered a kill to set up the game point. The Lady Yellow Jackets served the ball into the net to end the second stanza.

“It means a lot starting tonight and especially being able to bond with the team,” Gibson commented. “We’re really close and we’re like a family.

“Some of the better moments have been when we all work together and keep our heads up, not down,” she added. “We’ll continue to work better and communicate more moving forward.”

Richmond had several chances to pull ahead in the third set, battling back to tie the set at 17 points. A 7-3 run by Lee County gave the visiting team a 2-1 advantage.

Sophomore Katie Way registers a point during the second set in Tuesday’s match. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

The fourth set opened to a 4-4 tie, but Lee County managed to go on a 9-3 run to open its lead. A 3-0 spurt from Richmond, which featured a kill from Durham, made it a 14-12 deficit and forced the visitors to call a timeout.

Going point-for-point, Lee County escaped with a win by taking nine of the next 15 points.

“It’s a privilege to play volleyball for the Richmond Raiders, and I’m not upset about the loss,” Durham said. “I wish we could have done better in the last two sets, though. 

“The experiences I’ve gotten over the last couple of years have been great, like meeting new people and learning new things. But the season isn’t over, so we’re going to come back tomorrow and try to do better and change some of the mistakes we made.”

Larsen noted that part of Richmond’s struggle on Tuesday was having to adjust to another new lineup, something that has been a common theme the past two weeks.  Moving players into new roles hasn’t been ideal, she said, but the team is making its best effort to compete.

“Katie did a great job all around since she’s not used to being in the back row passing or being on the court 100 percent of the time,” Larsen explained. “It was a big adjustment for her, but she did great.

“Catherine was back for the first time in a couple of games, and it took her some time to get back into it,” she added. “Christi (Jacobs) did a good job holding her spot on the floor and it worked out that she had played libero last year.”

Richmond is now 3-7 on the season and 2-3 in SAC play. The Lady Raiders will close out a busy week tomorrow at home against non-conference Pine Forest High School (3-6) at 6 p.m.

“I feel like we get used to a lineup and then something happens where we have to adjust to a whole new one,” Larsen closed. 

“We’ll prepare for another big non-conference game tomorrow. The girls will get more experience playing rather than practicing, so we’re excited to see what tomorrow brings.”

JV Lady Raiders earn another win 

Prior to Senior Night, the Richmond junior varsity volleyball team defeated Lee County 2-1 in three sets. 

The JV Lady Raiders took the first set 25-13, followed with a 22-25 loss and rallied to take the third set 15-9. 

Head coach Melissa Dennis’ team improved to 5-5 on the season and will also play Pine Forest on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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