The Richmond volleyball team’s main goal heading into the 2017 season was to finish conference play undefeated for the second year in a row — even with the addition of Jack Britt and Seventy-First as conference rivals.
Former head coach Shellie Wimpey was more than confident that her returning group, which featured the reigning Conference Player of the Year and five all-conference selections, was capable of winning another conference title and finishing with a better overall record than it did two years ago.
What took place over the course of the season, however, superseded everyone’s expectations.
Not only did the Lady Raiders sweep through the Sandhills Athletic Conference, they went the entire regular season — and the conference tournament — without a loss, winning 25 consecutive matches before suffering defeat.
Richmond started the year with four non-conference matches: a couple of three-set victories over South Stanly and West Montgomery and then back-to-back wins — both in four sets — over Lee County and Anson.
The team’s conference opener was a home match against Purnell Swett, which it also won in three sets thanks to a solid defensive effort that was highlighted by 51 total digs. Altman Griffin and Mackenzie Webb each finished with a team-high 12 digs to lead the charge and Layne Maultsby added 10 digs of her own.
Over the next two weeks, the Lady Raiders racked up six straight wins (over Pinecrest, Lee County, Jack Britt, Hoke County, Union Pines and Lumberton) in order to — exactly halfway through the regular season — boast an 11-0 overall record.
At that time, they had already broken the record for the longest winning streak in program history and were only another half-dozen wins away from breaking the program record for most wins in a single season.
Griffin, Bri Baysek and Owen Bowers made sure Richmond did just that when Jack Britt came to town on Sept. 28, as they combined for 25 kills to lead the team to its 17th victory. Savannah Lampley recorded a team-high 12 digs in the record-breaking win. Allexis Swiney was second on the team with nine digs, and Bowers and Griffin each finished two blocks.
“They’re really hyped up and excited about it,” Wimpey said of the team setting the new record. “But they also know it’s not life or death. We have to know that if we do lose, the season still goes on. There are more games to play.
“They’re not ready to lose, though. So that’s good,” she added.
Wimpey and the Lady Raiders would make easy work of the last five matchups on the regular season schedule, wrapping the year with a dominant three-set victory over rival Scotland on Senior Night. They would cruise through the conference tournament as well, improving to 25-0, and earn their first tournament title during Wimpey’s tenure as head coach.
Richmond’s perfect season came to an end, however, with a loss to Lake Norman in the first round of the state playoffs.
For the second consecutive year, Griffin and Wimpey were named the conference’s player and coach of the year, respectively. Griffin was named to the all-conference team alonsgide Baysek, Bowers, Lampley and Webb.
WHAT WAS SAID
“I think any time you have players that mesh well and have good chemistry, it’s going to show on the court. Especially in a game like volleyball, where you’re constantly communicating, having to back your teammates up, and being positive,” Wimpey said. “We ended up accomplishing a lot of things that kind of set the tone for the program in the future.”
Richmond will be without Baysek, Bowers, Griffin and Webb — who all recently graduated — and Wimpey, who is now head coach of the girls cross country team. Former junior varsity coach Ashleigh Larsen is taking over the varsity program and expects the Lady Raiders to continue being among the best in the conference.
Maultsby (defensive specialist), Lampley (outside hitter) and Swiney (right-side hitter), Savannah Chappell (middle blocker/hitter) and Jadyn Johnson (right-side hitter) are the five returning players.
The Richmond volleyball team finished the 2017 regular season undefeated, won the conference’s regular-season and tournament titles, and broke the program record for most wins in a single season.
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.