Pelham falls short of dream

This was their year. With only four loses and only one to a Class 6A opponent, the Pelham Panthers emerged on the scene as the team to beat. After a 25-18 win in the first set of the title match at the Pelham Civic Complex Thursday, the Panthers appeared to be on pace to the title with a kill by Ally Slaughter and block by Whitney Billings to put the set away.

But 2007 runner-up Bob Jones was not going to be taken lightly, rallying to win the title in the next three sets 32-30, 25-30, 25-23.

“We were the underdogs. No body thought we could do it and we proved everybody wrong,” Bob Jones head coach Laura Burke. “We knew we had more heart and desire than they did. We were going to give it all every point as if it were the last, and I think we did a great job of that today.”

The turning point on the season finale for Pelham came in the second set. Leading, 6-2, Pelham began to get attacked on its left side, as Bob Jones used Pelham’s block to its advantage and fought back to tie the set, 9-9. The set remained point-for-point to the end until Bethanie Thomas put it away for Bob Jones, 32-30, with a kill.

“It wasn’t the situation that we made a blocking error,” Pelham skills coach Tein Le said. “It was just them constantly looking. They did a great, great job of using the block.”

The second-set win carried momentum into the third set, as Bob Jones led the whole time. Pelham rallied from behind in the fourth set to pull within a point, 24-23, but a service error by Whitney Hudson sailed long to end the match.

“The kids have played extremely hard. Obviously this is not the outcome that we wanted and hoped for,” Pelham head coach Kim Kiel said.

Billings and setter Lindsey Young were named to the All-Tournament Team, but Le made his case after the match for who he thought the real MVP was.

“(Ally) was our best player in terms of front row offense this whole match and it blows my mind. No offense to those two, because you look at the season and those two may have carried. If you judge solely in the tournament, (Ally) should have been on the All-Tournament Team.”