Chelsea volleyball off to 6-1 start

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

After several Chelsea volleyball players signed to play at the next level in the offseason, leaving the Hornets without several of their top playmakers returning in 2017, it looked like they may be set for a down year.

Chelsea head coach Jessica Pickett had other ideas, however. Despite the loss of middle hitter Lexie Riggins and setter Taylor Hackett—both members of the All-County first team last year—the Hornets are off to a fast 6-1 start to the new season.

A large part of that success is due to the return of sophomore Jules Hammer, who was a member of the All-County second team last year, as well as Ashley Mock and Victoria Schumer. Those three girls led Chelsea during the first few days of competition with impressive stat lines.

The Hornets kicked off the 2017 season on Thursday, Aug. 31, in a tri-match with Jeff Davis and Brewbaker Tech at Jeff Davis High School.

It took no time for the Hornets to ease into the new season winning both matches in straight sets to get off to a quick 2-0 start after night one of competition.

Chelsea followed that up by traveling to Albertville High School on Saturday, Sept. 2, for the Albertville Invitational where they faced off against Kate Duncan Smith DAR, Fyffe, Sardis and Cedar Bluff before taking on Albertville in the Hornets’ final match.

The Hornets started the tournament with another straight-set victory over Fyffe to move to 3-0 and followed that up with their fourth consecutive straight-set win by taking down DAR.

Those two wins set up a crucial match with host Albertville for the championship, but Chelsea’s magic had run out as they fell in straight sets to the Aggies to fall to 4-1 on the season.

Chelsea still managed to salvage what was already a great run by winning two more matches over Sardis and Cedar Bluff in the Silver Division bracket of the tournament to finish the tournament with just one loss and a loser’s bracket win.

After the tournament had ended, Chelsea found itself sitting at 6-1 as Pickett couldn’t have asked for a better start from her team. Last year this team had an extremely impressive regular season winning 30-plus matches, but fell early in the postseason.

That’s something that is clearly on the minds of this Chelsea team early in 2017 as they look for a state championship, which was a reality last year and seems to be again this season.

During the opening seven games, Mock paced the way with a team-high 70 assists, while also adding 43 digs, 23 kills and a hitting percentage of .308.

Hammer led the team with 53 kills and 18 aces from the service line, while also contributing 11 digs, 13 blocks and a hitting percentage of .417.

Schumer also had a nice outing during Week 1 by leading the team with 63 digs and picking up 14 assists and 11 aces.

Chelsea has a tri-match with Oxford and John Carroll at home on Sept. 7 before three straight road matches at Gardendale and area foes Pelham and Helena Sept. 11, 12 and 14.