Blue chipper: Billings to lead loaded Pelham

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

The Pelham Panthers believe they can win the Class 6A state championship in volleyball this year. One reason is a team full of all-stars, including one player head coach Tammy Richardson considers a

&8220;blue chipper.&8221;

That would be sophomore middle, 15-year-old, 6-foot-1, Whitney Billings.

Whitney came up from middle school in the seventh grade to play varsity volleyball for Richardson. Her mother, Demetria Billings,

said, &8220;Every time she hit the ball, the team would say that&8217;s our 13-year-old.&8221;

Two years ago, Demetria said Whitney also toured Africa to play volleyball for a junior Olympic team.

If the last name Billings sounds familiar, that&8217;s because Whitney is the sister of former Pelham High School football standout Montez Billings.

Is there sibling rivalry between the two?

Demetria said, &8220;They try to boost each other up and stay motivated, stay focused, first on the education and then everything else should follow because both of them are very good athletes.&8221;

Richardson said Whitney can touch the basketball rim at 10 feet, and, &8220;when you&8217;ve got a girl that can touch 10, that&8217;s pretty dang good.&8221;

While Richardson is not shy about saying she has a team of all-stars, most of whom she believes can play at some level of college volleyball, she said of Whitney, &8220;I would guess she will probably be classified as one of the fab 50. That means as a senior you&8217;re one of the top recruits in the nation.&8221;

Richardson said Whitney was one of the top 10 freshmen in the country last year.

&8220;First of all, she is an all-around player. I mean she does everything really well,&8221; said Richardson. &8220;So that&8217;s probably her draw at the higher levels.&8221;

Richardson, who has coached volleyball for 26 years at PHS with more than 1,200 wins under her belt, said Whitney will be at the top of D-1 college volleyball.

What does Whitney think of Volleyball? &8220;I like the fast pace, fun, hitting and killing the ball.&8221;

What are her best shots? She likes what she calls the &8220;one ball,&8221; where the set is fast, and the &8220;31,&8221; where she goes around the setter to hit the ball.

So what exactly what are Pelham&8217;s chances for a state title, like they won in 1997?

&8220;This year, it&8217;s for us. We have a strong team. Strong hitters, strong defense, should be able to go all the way,&8221; said Whitney.

Richardson stated, &8220;I think we are going to be very competitive. Our goal is to win the state championship … that&8217;s our top goal. We think it&8217;s possible. Is it going to be a dogfight? Uh huh, it is.&8221;

Richardson points to senior team captains Liz Lee, the setter, and Alison Young, the outside and most consistent hitter. She also considers Whitney Hudson, another sophomore outside hitter, as an &8220;extremely powerful&8221; and &8220;all-around&8221; player.

Richardson also noted her middle, senior Shea McBee and defensive specialists Jasmine Clark and Amanda Rowland, both sophomores, and freshman Alie Slaughter.

Other defensive specialists on the team include seniors Kristen McKay, Noel Corbin and Ashley Cole. Rounding out the roster is junior Kelly Pybas