ROCKINGHAM — For the second time in less than a week, the Scotland volleyball team was defeated in four games by its bitter rival.
Richmond Senior hosted Scotland Tuesday night in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference tournament and beat the visitors 25-10, 25-18, 21-25, 25-21 to secure a spot in the conference championship tilt.
The Raiders bested the Scots last Thursday to force a tie for second in the SEC regular-season standings, then won the subsequent coin flip to secure the No. 2 seed in this week’s SEC tournament. Scotland dropped to the No. 3 seed and lost its first-round bye after that defeat, and was forced to play a quarterfinal game Monday against Purnell Swett, while Richmond enjoyed the day off.
Despite sweeping the Rams, Scotland was unable to build on the momentum it created from that win during its trip to Rockingham.
“I’m very disappointed in tonight’s performance and the effort given,” Scotland head coach Molly Hayes said. “I think you need to come ready to play with 100 percent effort in mind, body, heart and unfortunately we did not do that tonight.”
Untimely hitting errors, miscommunication and what Hayes termed “bad defense” plagued the Scots for much of the contest.
“I thought in the beginning of the second and in the third game our defense was better, but our defense was really bad in game one and parts of game four,” Hayes said. “When you’re not ready to play defense, you can’t win a volleyball game.”
The loss dropped Scotland to 13-9 overall while Richmond improved to 11-10. The Raiders will travel to Southern Pines today to play Pinecrest in the SEC title game — the Patriots won the other semifinal bout Tuesday, beating Hoke 3-1 at home.
“We played really hard tonight,” Richmond coach Shellie Wimpey said. “We came out to play and ready to win again.”
Kaitlin Lewis had seven kills and seven digs for the Scots. Nahir Pegues tacked on six kills and three solo blocks, Kenleigh Callahan posted nine digs and 11 assists and Emma Gray Beacham added 17 digs.
Hailey Mason had a double-double for Richmond with 16 kills and 17 digs. Madelyn Chappell had 11 kills and seven solo blocks, and Mackenzie White dished out 35 assists.
As has become a theme for Scotland throughout the course of the season, mental breakdowns plagued the team against top-level competition. Hayes said when her girls make one mistake, it has a “snowball effect” that’s resulted in crucial lost points and volleys.
“We’ve tried to work on communication and being loud so they understand their role on the court,” Hayes said. “I think sometimes they get confused with their role and sometimes they try to take someone else’s job and it causes confusion. We’re not good at recovering right away — instead we stay confused throughout the volley and lose the ball.”
After losing the first two games by a combined 22 points, Scotland rebounded in the third set to close the gap to 2-1.
In the fourth and deciding game, the score was knotted at 13 before Richmond went on a 6-1 run to build the cushion it needed to defeat the Scots for the second time this season.
The Raiders will likely host a North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A playoff game Saturday after the brackets are released later in the week. As the No. 3 seed out of the SEC, Scotland will hit the road for the opening round.
“It will be awesome to have a game at home,” Wimpey said. “We have had to travel the last two years. The girls will be excited to play at home instead of having to take a long bus ride.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.