ROCKINGHAM — The Lady Raider volleyball team’s 2017 season came to an unfortunate end Tuesday evening, as it dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 15 Lake Norman in the second round of the NCHSAA State Playoffs.
A total of 10 kills from senior Altman Griffin and 11 digs from junior Savannah Lampley helped No. 2 Richmond earn a pair of two-point victories in the first and third sets but it came up just a bit short in the other three (25-23, 22-25, 29-27, 17-25, 13-15).
It was only the second time this season the Lady Raiders had gone all five sets.
“We fought really hard and I thought we played really well,” head coach Shellie Wimpey. “There were a few times where we were up and we let them come back. If we would’ve just shut them away then and there, and won those games, we wouldn’t have had to go to a fifth game.
“We can’t have mistakes like quicksand,” she continued. “You can’t just let them (mistakes) fall on top of each other.”
Tuesday’s second-round matchup was arguably the most intense match Richmond played all season, as four of the five sets were decided by three points or less. Its first-set victory was full of energy, but its win in the third set had everyone in the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Lake Norman (16-9) got off to a quick 3-0 start in the third and was able to hold on to its lead, until a kill from Lady Raider senior Brianna Baysek gave the home team a 9-8 advantage. Both teams would be forced to call a timeout after the other went on a short run — which kept the energy high in the building.
Back-to-back kills from Griffin, and a block that landed just inside the line, gave Richmond a 22-20 lead in the final moments. But the Lady Wildcats answered with four points of their own and went ahead 24-22.
Lake Norman thought it had won the set after what seemed to a be a kill but the official called a carry, which tied the game at 24-all. The teams would continue splitting points until Richmond’s 28-27 lead turned in a 29-27 win after a Lady Wildcat attempt hit the net.
Richmond (25-1) fell apart in the latter stages of the fourth set, as a series of miscommunications led to a eight-point defeat. Senior Owen Bowers recorded the team’s last point with her lone kill during the set.
The Lady Raiders would get out to a three-point lead to start the final set with Griffin serving.
Lake Norman kept fighting, however, and found themselves within arm’s reach of the third round after taking a 14-12 lead. Sophomore Makenzie Taylor would seal the deal with one of her many powerful kills, which landed inches away from the out-of-bounds line.
“This is the best team we’ve played. They had great servers and some big hitters,” Wimpey said. “They probably have a whole team that plays year round, so I think that speaks to how athletic we are…and how we’re still able to compete.”
It wasn’t the ending they had hoped for, but the Lady Raiders just wrapped up the best season in program history. They won 25 straight games as well as the conference’s regular season and tournament championships.
“I’m very proud of them. They worked hard,” Wimpey added. “I hate that it didn’t go their way tonight, but it doesn’t take away from all the accomplishments they’ve had. And I hope they know that.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.