ROCKINGHAM — A program-record 17 wins, regular season and conference tournament combined, helped the Richmond girls soccer team grab the No. 13 overall seed in the upcoming North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A State Playoffs.
Richmond (17-5) will compete in the West bracket for the fourth consecutive postseason and is set to host No. 20 Porter Ridge (12-8) on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
This will be the first time “since probably 2004” the Lady Raiders will host a first-round playoff game.
“It feels good. That was one of our goals, to make the playoffs and have a home game, so I’m looking forward to it and I hope the girls are too,” head coach Bennie Howard said.
With retirement looming, after 24 years with the girls team, Howard is hoping the Lady Raiders play for as long as they possibly can during his final playoff run. He wants to see the type of energy that was on display during the team’s seven-game winning streak — which started with a win over Hoke County last month and lasted up until last Friday’s loss to Pinecrest in the conference tournament championship.
Howard says a win on Wednesday would not only help the program get out of the first round for the first time in almost 14 years, it would also help bring things full circle and fulfill a personal goal of his.
“I was out here cutting grass yesterday and thought about how this might be the last time I cut grass as a head coach,” Howard said. “We started using this field for our games two years ago when we beat (South View) and I would like to end the last home game with a win. That’s kind of a personal goal.”
Porter Ridge, which finished fourth in the Southwestern 4A Conference, won six games in a row early in the regular season but struggled to win consecutive games in the final month, finishing 5-5 in its last 10 games of the year.
Although Howard doesn’t know much about the Lady Pirates, he is aware they don’t have any seniors on the roster and “two good centerbacks that sweep everything up in the back.”
He’s seen a bit of game video and notices there are a few similarities between the two teams: Porter Ridge has speed, has scored more goals than it has allowed, and has also played against Jay M. Robinson and Central Academy of Technology and Arts.
“All I want the girls to do is play 80 minutes,” Howard added. “At this stage, you can’t wait 10 to 15 minutes into the game (to get going). You’ve got to be ready to rock and roll as soon as you get on the field.”
Conference foes Pinecrest (22-1-3), Jack Britt (14-6) and Purnell Swett (12-8) also made the state playoffs’ final cuts.
Pinecrest received a first-round bye as the No. 3 overall seed in the West bracket. It will host the winner of No. 14 Olympic (19-4) and No. 19 Mallard Creek (14-6-1) in the second round.
Jack Britt received the No. 20 seed in the East and will travel to No. 13 Ashley (16-2-1) in the first round. Purnell Swett earned the No. 24 overall seed in the West and will kick its postseason off at No. 9 Page (11-4-1).