ROCKINGHAM — Ashleigh Larsen is ready to take the Richmond volleyball program, which over the past two seasons has already established itself as a force to be reckoned, to an even higher level.
Two weeks ago, it was announced that Larsen would be taking over as head coach of the Lady Raiders’ varsity volleyball team after spending the last six years coaching the junior varsity team and acting as an assistant under former varsity coach Shellie Wimpey, who earned back-to-back Coach of the Year honors (2016, 2017) in the conference.
“I’m really excited to be given this opportunity,” Larsen said. “Working under Wimpey was great and I’m excited to take what she’s already accomplished and take it a step further. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish.”
In her first season, Larsen will be without the core four (Bri Baysek, Owen Bowers, Altman Griffin, Mackenzie Webb) that helped the Lady Raiders break multiple school records, go two seasons without losing a conference game, secure back-to-back conference titles and win 25 games in a row during this past season.
They all were named all-conference and Griffin was dubbed Conference Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.
“I have no doubt that these girls can do above and beyond what they have (in recent years) … My hopes are to fill those four spots and keep on going like nothing ever happened,” Larsen explained. “I’d love to be competitive and sit up there as the two or three seed (in the conference) — or number one. I’d love to be there, too, so it’ll be interesting to see.”
Rising senior Savannah Lampley, outside hitter, was also a member of those two all-conference teams and will be one of five returning players. Rising juniors Layne Maultsby, defensive specialist, and Allexis Swiney, right-side hitter, are both rising juniors who made an impact as starters in their first seasons on the varsity level.
Savannah Chappell, middle blocker/hitter, and Jadyn Johnson, right-side hitter, are also returning for their senior and junior campaigns, respectively, and will be expected to increase their production.
“I think the returning group that we have built such a good bond last year, even those who didn’t play as much, and have shown such great leadership,” Larsen said. “I’m hoping the younger girls see that and build from there.”
As the team builds its chemistry, the newly named head coach hopes that she can also grow closer to her players.
Larsen, who played her college vollyball at St. Joseph’s College on Long Island (N.Y.) as an outside and right-side hitter, is already familiar with the majority of the returners, but will use the summer months to build an even stronger bond with them while also forming new relationships with the girls coming up from the middle-school ranks.
The volleyball team is scheduled to hold summer workouts every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for the rest of the summer — aside from the state’s madatory dead weeks (July 1-7 and July 15-21) — until the first day of tryouts (Monday, July 30).
“Having them for the summer so that I can kind of tweak things, get them going in my direction and see my vision for the program … it’s been awesome,” Larsen said. “Hopefully they’re as excited as I am.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.