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Wednesday, 15 September 2021 21:08

Lady Raiders remain positive despite loss to Pine Forest

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Sophomore Jenna Gardner (3) digs the ball during the second set of Wednesday's loss to Pine Forest. Sophomore Jenna Gardner (3) digs the ball during the second set of Wednesday's loss to Pine Forest. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — Despite closing out its week with a non-conference loss to Pine Forest High School on Wednesday, the Lady Raider volleyball team is set on moving forward.

Richmond played its third match in as many nights, hosting the Lady Trojans in a match played in honor of Jason Norton. 

A longtime staple in the Richmond athletic community, Norton was also Pine Forest’s athletic director before he passed away in June 2020 from cancer.

The visiting Lady Trojans left with a 3-0 win, handing the Lady Raiders their fourth-straight loss. Set scores were 12-25, 21-25 and 18-25.

Although her team has been on a mid-season slide, head coach Ashleigh Larsen remained positive that the Lady Raiders can round the corner with still much of their season left to play. She said Richmond showed its grit by battling back in the final two sets.

“It was frustrating to watch the first set, especially when we got in a 17-point hole,” Larsen said. “The atmosphere in the gym was dead across the board, and we couldn’t get things rolling. 

“Physically the girls were there, but mentally they needed a break,” she added. “But we did turn it around in the second and third sets. The game was more exciting, and had we not missed some serves, we could have gotten the momentum to slide into a fourth and fifth set.”

Pine Forest jumped out to a 21-4 lead in the first set, but the Lady Raiders managed to find a groove and finish out the frame on an 8-4 run. 

Several hitting and digging errors by the Lady Trojans, coupled with a block from junior middle hitter Catherine Dennis, helped Richmond find its footing, which carried over into the final two sets.

In the second set, senior outside hitter Allyiah Swiney collected a kill and sophomore right side hitter Jenna Gardner served an ace to knot the score at seven points. Richmond and Pine Forest tied again at 11 and 12 points, before the visitors took an 18-13 lead.

Dennis started a 3-0 run for Richmond with two blocks in the same series, which resulted in a point for the Lady Raiders following a hitting error.

Larsen called a timeout with her team trailing 21-16, and another Swiney kill and some help with miscues from Pine Forest made it a 24-21 deficit before the Lady Trojans closed it out.

Senior Kiersten Gibson (12) makes a pass during the second set of Wednesday’s match. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

To start the third set, an ace from junior defensive specialist Joy Styles, a kill from sophomore middle hitter Katie Way and a block by freshman setter Ava Edmundson kept the score close.

Richmond and Pine Forest played to seven different ties all the way out to 16-16. But a 9-2 run completed the sweep for the Lady Trojans.

“We need to find that last-minute will to win,” Larsen explained. “I know it’s there, the girls just need to unleash the beast.

“It starts internally with the girls — they need to internalize what they need to do individually and then bring it together as a team. I know the girls want to win, and the pieces are there, we just need to put them together.”

Larsen also noted that a rollercoaster of lineups the last two weeks due to a number of reasons hasn’t helped the consistency of play from the Lady Raiders. 

“We have our last match of the first round of conference play on Tuesday, and then we swing back around. And we’ll be ready to go.”

Seeing their overall record move to 3-8 and 2-3 in conference play, the Lady Raiders will close out their first round of Sandhills Athletic Conference play next Tuesday at rival Scotland High School (7-1, 3-1 SAC). That match will begin at 6 p.m.

JV Lady Raiders make quick work of Pine Forest

Richmond’s junior varsity volleyball team swept Pine Forest in straight sets on Wednesday, 2-0. 

Neither set was close, seeing the JV Lady Raiders roll to set wins of 25-12 and 25-14. 

Improving to 6-5 on the season, head coach Melissa Dennis and the JV team will also play at Scotland on Tuesday 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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