It was a familiar story with a familiar ending for Richmond Hill’s volleyball team.
For the seventh straight year the Wildcats reached the GHSA state volleyball playoffs and once again they were left wondering what if.
It’s not as if Richmond Hill has merely made playoff appearances: it lost in the first round in 2016 but in successive years it has reached the third round twice and the second round four times before exiting.
Last Saturday the homestanding Wildcats once again came up short in the second round of the Class 7A state tournament as they lost to Harrison by the scores of 25-18, 25-19 and 25-20 to bring a disappointing end to one of the best seasons in school history.
In each game Richmond Hill battled tooth-and-nail only to see the visitors go on a run which proved to be the difference.
First year coach Kaitlin Bean’s team set a school record for wins (39-5) in a season and won its second region championship in the last three years but that did not impress the Hoyas whose bigger front line was too much to overcome.
“When you have a team with a huge blocker on the other side or dominant hitters, we really needed to be in our system so we can run our offense,” Bean said. “It just wasn’t clicking for us today where we could attack like we should have.”
The Kennesaw school played with consistency from the outset and never wavered whenever the Wildcats made it close as it mounted a run to move into the quarterfinals of the Class 7A state tournament.
On the bright side Richmond Hill finished the season as the third winningest team in the state in Class 7A behind North Gwinnett and North Cobb (40-11) which lost in the second round last Saturday to North Gwinnett.
The Wildcats, who had pulled off a clean sweep to win the Region 1-7A tournament the week before, came out the starting blocks as if their hair was on fire, taking a 2-0 lead in the opening seconds and led 4-3 before the Hoys went on a 14-2 run to take charge of the game.
Down 22-11 the Wildcats, behind the play of Akira Burt and Savannah Davis, rallied to trim the deficit to 22-17 but that was close as they could get.
The following two games followed a similar pattern with the second one seeming to be the backbreaker. In that game the Wildcats held a 19-17 lead only to see the Hoyas close on an 8-0 run to clinch the win.
“We were not as energetic as we should have been as a team,” Bean said. “When you don’t have that energy it’s kind of hard to get all six girls clicking together.”
In the third and clinching game Richmond Hill fell behind 10-1 at the outset and while it managed to get to within three at 23-20 there wasn’t enough gas left in the tank to pull it out.
Bean said the season exceeded her expectations and despite losing five seniors including Region 7 Player of the Year Akira Burt who is committed to Georgia State and Rory Schuler who is going to USC-Aiken the future is bright.
“Coming in I knew I had a good group of girls,” Bean said. “But I didn’t realize how good they were until we got into practice.
“There was so much talent on this team I said, ‘Girls we can’t lose,’” Bean said. “We just had to make sure we utilized the talent we had.
“What we did in the Savannah area and our region was incredible. We won a lot of big games at the beginning and end of the season. We have a good nucleus coming back and our jayvee team, which is mostly freshmen, lost only one game.”