ROCKINGHAM — Midway through the first half Monday night, Richmond coach Bennie Howard told his team to get it in gear.
His players listened.
Richmond scored nine of the game’s final 10 goals to post a 12-3 win over Purnell Swett to advance to today’s semifinal with Lumberton.
Earlier this season, the Raiders defeated the Rams 10-1 in Rockingham and 9-0 in Pembroke.
“When you play someone for the third time in a year, the way we had, you have a tendency to come out lackadaisical,” Howard said. “They had one player who had all three of their goals. We couldn’t stop him, not at least until the end. We outlasted him I guess.”
Joseph Velasquez had three goals for the Rams and Armando Garcia had three of his own to lead the Raiders and Sergio Chaparo added two more.
The pair exchanged goals in the middle of the first half during a 40-second scoring fury. With the game knotted at 1, Garcia scored on a header off a pass from Juan Onesto. Nine seconds later, Velasquez raced down the middle of the field and sent a shot past Logan Deese to tie the game. Garcia found the back of the net 29 seconds after Velasquez’s goal to give Richmond the lead for good.
Despite the victory, Howard cautioned his team it couldn’t come out flat against Lumberton like it did against Purnell Swett.
“We had to approach (today) with some intensity and a faster pace,” he said. “We have to stop their No. 12 (Colby Johnson). If we can stop him, we have a chance.”
In the previous meeting, the Raiders knocked off the Pirates 3-2 in Lumberton. A victory over Lumberton would send Richmond to its first SEC tournament championship contest since the league reformed in 2009. Howard couldn’t recall the last time the Raiders battled for the conference title.
Richmond (8-7-1) and Lumberton will play in the second semifinal game at 7 p.m. today at Scotland. Pinecrest, the regular season champion, will face Hoke at 5 p.m. The Bucks beat Scotland 5-2 in the other opening round matchup.
UNCP inches to 8th in AFCA poll
WACO, Texas — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team made some more moves in the national spotlight on Monday as the Braves crept up to No. 8 in the latest American Football Coaches Association Top 25 poll.
The ranking is the highest ranking in school history for the Braves (6-0), who were listed at No. 8 in the 2010 Sports News Division II Preseason Top 25. One of just 12 teams nationwide that still sport an undefeated record through week seven, UNCP is now the highest ranked NCAA Super Region II team as well. The Braves joined super region foes Valdosta State (11th), Carson-Newman (T-18th), West Alabama (21st) and Lenoir-Rhyne (24th) in the latest release.
This week’s computer rankings offered conflicting opinions on the Braves. UNCP climbed one spot to No. 2 in the latest computer listing by CompughterRatings.com, and slipped six spots to No. 17 in the latest batch of computer rankings by MasseyRatings.com.
The Braves close out a three-game road trip on Saturday at Newberry.
Strickland takes 4th at regional
WILMINGTON — Purnell Swett’s Kali Strickland lost a 2 1/2 hour marathon to Jack Britt’s Vatrice Williams in the third-place match at the NCHSAA East Regionals Monday at the Althea Gibson Tennis Center in Wilmington.
Williams entered regional play unbeaten and had only lost two sets all season before losing to Hoggard’s Melanie Post in three sets in the other regional semifinal completed Monday.
She beat Strickland 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 4-6.
“Kali showed that she belonged in the final four,” said Swett coach David Leek. “She has been plagued by a wrist injury down the stretch, but she hit a lot of great passing shots and went toe-to-toe with the best player from the Mid-South Conference. She showed glimpses of playing like the Kali of old and I respect her for that.
“She’s hurting an awful lot, but she never complains and just keeps taking our program to new heights. We’re so proud of her.”
Strickland is the first tennis player in Swett’s 30-year history to qualify for the state championships which will be held Friday and Saturday at Raleigh’s Millbrook Exchange Park.
Stinson is the sports editor at the Richmond County Daily Journal. The Robesonian staff contributed to this report.