ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior volleyball coach Shellie Wimpey believes her team has the ability to compete with the best in the Southeastern Conference.
It’s getting her players to believe is going to be the tough part.
Richmond finished with a 6-14 overall record last season and was tied for fourth in the SEC with a 3-7 mark. The Raiders suffered through four stretches where they lost at least two contests in a row, including a five-match streak in the middle of the season.
“We went five games a lot last year but we couldn’t pull those out,” Wimpey said. “We would start out winning the first and second game and then let a team come back and win three. We should have been third last year, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have been. We went five games with Purnell Swett every time. There’s no reason we couldn’t have been on the flip side and been in third place last year.”
Wimpey believes this season’s squad has the chance to turn things around and return to the state 4A playoffs.
“Our talent is there, they can be a good team,” she said. “It’s just that their mentality has to be that they believe are a good team, not that they’re not. They need have to have that winning mentality. I feel like that is what we have lacked the last few years. Hopefully the girls coming up from JV will have that mentality.”
The Raiders return five players from last season’s team including four seniors — Chelsea Davis, Nile Fisher, Davina LeGrande and Breanna McKinnon. LeGrande is back as the starting setter for the third consecutive season, while McKinnon is the top returning attacker.
Wimpey said LeGrande will be the key to getting the offense rolling, but added she can’t get things going without help from the rest of the team.
“We have been working really hard on our serve receive and passing,” she said. “They have also been working really hard on some issues we had last year in coverage so we can get good passes to Davina so we can get good sets, so we can get good hits. We’re working really hard on that first pass.”
Besides McKinnon, Wimpey is looking for big things from outside hitters Fisher and Davis as well as two new middle blockers — Hailey Mason and Madelyn Chappell.
“Hailey and Madelyn are very strong,” Wimpey said. “They’re young. It’s their first year on varsity, but they’re strong and they love volleyball and are dedicated to volleyball.
“Nile played a lot on the outside last year. She did really well on the outside just like Bre did. Chelsea is there too. I think they are all good players and can get better, they just have to practice. If we get a good pass and a good set we should be fine.”
Richmond will open the regular season at home against South Stanly at 6 p.m. Monday. Its first conference match will also be at home against Hoke at 6 p.m. Sept. 4.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.