Panthers gearing up for another run at state

While strong performers from last season like Caitland Smith (pictured) are gone, Pelham head volleyball coach Perry Robinson said he feels his team is ready for the season. (FILE)

While strong performers from last season like Caitland Smith (pictured) are gone, Pelham head volleyball coach Perry Robinson said he feels his team is ready for the season. (FILE)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

PELHAM — While the region has changed, some of the opponents have changed and even a few of the players have changed, but the goal for the Pelham Panthers volleyball season remains the same headed into the 2014 season:
Win the AHSAA Class 6A state championship.

There have been two major shakeups at Pelham High since the Panthers last walked off the court in Birmingham in October, namely the split with Helena High and the AHSAA reclassification.

Despite the recent occurrences, Pelham head volleyball coach Perry Robinson said he felt his team was ready for the season.

“We’ve got 11 juniors and seniors (combined),” he said. “We’re not going to change a whole lot.”
Robinson said his team planned to adhere to its policy form last season of playing strong teams in the regular season to prepare for the playoffs.

“We’ll play anybody,” he said. “Anything that makes us better, we’ll do. We’re going to the Huntsville Tourney, going to the Mayor’s Cup in Montgomery and Hartselle. That could be a team we see later.”

With the reclassification, longtime foe Thompson moves up into Class 7A, as does Oak Mountain and Spain Park. The Panthers move into a region with John Carroll and Hueytown, and while it won’t count for area play, Robinson said the Panthers tried to retain some of the local rivalries.

“We’re changing our schedule up a little bit,” he said. “We’ve tried to keep regional (rivalries.) It’s a lot of teams that have not played before.”

While the Panthers will move on to new rivalries within Class 6A, Pelham will continue to play Oak Mountain twice, while playing Spain Park, and Thompson once each.

Another goal for the Panthers this season is to try and see as many possible playoff opponents as possible before actually getting there, Robinson said.

“Hopefully we can lays eyes on teams,” he said. “Anything we can learn is money in the bank.”

As for the goal of a state title, Robinson said that while getting to the tournament last season was fun, the team wants a return trip.

“The kids enjoyed last year,” he said. (We) want to go back.”