ROCKINGHAM — Scotland volleyball and conference championships seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly.
You can’t have one without the other.
Since the Southeastern Conference reformed in 2009, Scotland has won all five regular season and tournament titles. During this five-year stretch, the Scots are 48-2 in SEC play and 10-0 in the tournament.
Pinecrest and Richmond are the only SEC teams to knock off Scotland during this era. Richmond pulled off the feat in 2009, topping Scotland in five games. It also took Pinecrest five games to end Scotland’s 36-match conference winning streak last season.
Can anyone stop Scotland’s run?
Just like Pinecrest in boys soccer, Scotland is always penciled in as the team to beat in volleyball. With only two losses in five years, Scotland has proved to be the class of the SEC even after the switch in coaches from David Barnes to Molly Hayes.
The Scots always seem to have a player ready to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight to lead the team to another SEC title and appearance in the state playoffs.
However, this might be the year when Scotland could be ripe for the plucking. In addition to losing Madaline Millholland, last season’s SEC Player of the Year, Scotland graduated four others. Plus in an interview with the Laurinburg Exchange earlier this summer, Hayes mentioned two returning players suffered season-ending injuries and another moving out of the district.
If any SEC team has a chance to knock Scotland off its throne, it could be Pinecrest.
Will Richmond return to the postseason?
Richmond finally has some consistency on the sideline as Shellie Wimpey will be back for her third season as coach.
The path to the postseason is going to be difficult with just three SEC schools automatically qualifying for the playoffs.
In her first year, Wimpey guided the Raiders to the 4A playoffs, but missed out last season as Richmond was 6-14 overall and finished fifth with a 3-7 league mark. Richmond upset Lumberton the No. 4 seed in the first round of the SEC tournament before falling to Scotland in the semifinals.
With Scotland and Pinecrest expected to vie for the title, the third guaranteed playoff spot should come down to Richmond and the two Robeson County schools — Lumberton and Purnell Swett. The Rams claimed the final postseason spot last year.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.