Pelham tops Helena for area title, both headed to Regionals

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

PELHAM – During the regular season, Pelham and Helena met twice on the volleyball court in top-10 matchups, but on Monday, Oct. 23, they were meeting for much more, the Class 6A, Area 8 championship.

Pelham earned the right to host the area tournament after finishing perfect in area play, including a thrilling 3-2 win over Helena on Sept. 19, and a 3-0 win over the Huskies on Oct. 3.

Just like the first two matchups, Pelham ended up coming out on top 3-1 in the match to win the area championship, but it didn’t come without some tense play, especially in the early going.

Helena, who had to beat Chelsea in the semifinals 30 minutes earlier just to advance, looked warmed up and ready to go in the first set. After a back-and-forth start to the match; the Huskies broke a 13-13 tie by 12-1 run to end the first set easily, 25-14.

The Huskies trailed 13-11 at one point in the set before rallying to win 14 of the final 15 points.

Pelham responded in the second set, however, building an early 10-5 lead. Helena didn’t come closer than three points the rest of the set as the Panthers went on to pick up a 25-16 win to tie the match at 2-2.

The Panthers continued using that momentum swing into the third set as they jumped out to an 8-3 advantage. Helena wasn’t ready to fold just yet and reeled off a 7-2 run to tie things at 10-10.

Pelham shut that response down quickly by answering back with a 6-0 run of their own before eventually winning the third set 25-17 to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

The Huskies were now forced to win two consecutive sets to win the area championship, but Pelham came out in the fourth and grabbed an early 17-7 lead.

Helena tried to make a bit of a comeback going on a 7-1 run, but the Panthes were able to hang on to pick up a 25-19 set win and a 3-1 match win for the 2017 area championship.

Emorie Long had a solid night putting home several monster kills. She led the team in that category with 20, while Jamila Wilson added 11. Grace Nolen led the team with three aces from the service line, while Sarah Guthrie added two more.

Sophomore Ashley Anderson led the Panthers with 16 digs, while Nolen and Sarah Guthrie were also in double digits with 12 and 10, respectively. Georgia Stonicher had 44 of the team’s 45 assists.

Pelham and Helena have both advanced to regionals at the Crampton Bowl Multiplex with Pelham scheduled to play at 10:15 a.m. and Helena 9 a.m.

Semifinals: Helena vs. Chelsea 

To get to the championship match, Helena had to pull out a semifinal game against a very good Chelsea team that spent much of the season in the top 10 and surpassed 20 wins.

Helena came out confident as they should have and put the Hornets away 25-22 in the first set to take a 1-0 lead in a match that was set to determine whose season was going to come to an end and whose season would continue on to regionals and the area championship.

Early in the second set it was a back-and-forth affair, before Chelsea reeled off five straight points to take a 10-5 lead, the Hornets’ largest of the match to that point.

Chelsea played from in front for a while gathering a 14-10 lead, before Helena stole the momentum back. The run was sparked by two great blocks 16 on strong Chelsea kill attempts.

It led to Helena reeling off several points to get within one at 14-13. The two battled to a 18-18 tie, but that’s when the Huskies really turned up the pressure and won five consecutive points to take a 23-18 lead. They closed it out shortly after to win their second consecutive set 25-22.

Chelsea was now forced to win three sets in a row to keep its season alive. The Hornets came out and played like it in the third set jumping up 9-3 in the early going.

The Huskies battled back to cut the lead to 12-8, but Chelsea was playing to well and eventually gathered its largest lead of the night at 18-11 forcing a Helena timeout. The Hornets came out of the timeout and put the Huskies away quickly 25-15 to force a fourth set keep their season alive.

Chelsea had completely turned the momentum of the match around and it showed at the beginning of the fourth as they propelled out to a quick 9-2 lead.

Helena, however, got back to the team that started out hot by going on an 11-1 run to snatch the lead back at 13-10.

This completely swung momentum back in the Huskies favor as they played from in front the rest of the match never letting Chelsea closer than two points as they picked up a 25-20 win to advance to the tournament final as well as regionals.

Please visit www.shelbycountyphotos.com for more images from the match.