ROCKINGHAM — The resurgence of the Richmond girls tennis program was on full display throughout the 2017 season.
In his second year at the helm, head coach Michael Way helped the Lady Raiders finish third in the Sandhills Athletic Conference’s inaugural year and advance in the 4A NCHSAA State Playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
The team also had two doubles teams reach the second round of the NCHSAA Regionals.
“It was a successful season overall,” Way said. “We want to get to a point where this type of season is what we expect and not what we just hope for.”
Richmond started the season off on the wrong foot, dropping the first two matches and then being on the losing side of a conference match that was cut short to due inclement weather. The team opened the season with a close 5-4 loss at Pine Forest, was shut out by Pinecrest 8-0 on its home courts nearly a week later and then trailed Jack Britt 4-2 before the rain interrupted the match.
That wasn’t the start the Lady Raiders had hoped for, but a victory at Hoke County the following Tuesday sparked a six-match winning streak. They went on to earn wins over Lumberton, Seventy-First, Scotland and Purnell Swett — twice — in convincing fashion.
“A win streak definitely helps. It makes your feel better about yourself, and you realize that you’re doing the right things,” Way added.
A quick two-game skid ensued, with losses to Pinecrest and Jack Britt, but Richmond got back to its winning ways with four consecutive wins to end the regular season. Seniors Destiny Buie, Elizabeth Burns, Kathleen Pittman and Meredith Stogner were celebrated on Senior Day and helped the team blank Seventy-First at home in the final week.
Following the conference tournament, the Lady Raiders were rewarded a wildcard spot in the state playoffs and made the most of it by exacting revenge at Pine Forest in the first round. They would be eliminated, however, by a tough Sanderson team in the second round.
“Anytime you can get a playoff win, it’s big for a program like ours,” Way said. “It definitely helps us going forward.”
Next season, the Lady Raiders will more than likely rely on Jayana Nicholson and Greyson Way — his daughter — in their senior campaigns next season. The two juniors took care of business in the majority of their singles matches this past season and joined forces to handle competiton in doubles.
They were one of the two duos to make it to the second round in regionals — the other duo being Buie and Pittman.
“They both kind of lead by example. They do what they’re supposed to do,” Way said of Nicholson and Greyson Way. “They both hate to lose, so no matter who they’re matched up against, they’re going to give it all they’ve got.”
Nicholson, after starting her career in the middle of the lineup, will more than likely take over the No. 1 spot in the singles now that Buie is gone. Way called the move a “natural progression” as the junior has been gradually rising in the lineup.
Also returning are juniors Emily Parsons, Taylor Parrish and Chloe Wiggins.
“We’re going to have to retool a little bit, because we went from being really young last year to being a little older this year,” Way said. “I’ve got to get some underclassmen out there and get them started.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
The Richmond girls tennis team reached the 4A NCHSAA State Playoffs this past season and advance to the second round for the first time in more than a decade. Head coach Michael Way, who just wrapped up his second year at the helm, is hoping to build on that success and bring along more young talent next season.