Pelham headed to Elite 8

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

MONTGOMERY – The Pelham Panthers needed just six sets during the first day of super regionals at Montgomery’s Crampton Bowl Multiplex on Thursday, Oct. 26, as they swept Sidney Lanier 3-0 and followed that up with a 3-0 win over Saraland to advance to the super regional semifinals, as well as the Elite 8 at the state tournament.

“I’m excited that we came in and did what we had to do,” Pelham head coach Perry Robinson said. “Where we were a year ago, not even getting here, I’m excited for what this group has done all year and what they’ve been able to do these last couple of weeks to end the regular season. They’ve put the work in and it’s fun to see that paying off.”

The super regionals started off with a matchup against the Area 4 runner up, Sidney Lanier, and the Panthers came out continuing their strong play from a few days before where they won the area tournament by dropping just one set.

Pelham picked up a straight set victory by not letting Sidney Lanier closer than 13 in any of the final scores from each set. The Panthers used sets of 25-7, 25-12 and 25-12 to advance to the quarterfinals of the south super regional.

The quarterfinal match against Saraland wasn’t just a matchup that had implications of keeping your season alive, but also meant the winning team would advance to the semifinals of the super regional as well as to the state tournament’s Elite 8.

Pelham came out and continued its strong play in the first set of the match, playing from in front the majority of the way, as they picked up a 25-19 win to take a 1-0 advantage.

The second set was much tighter, as the two teams battled back and forth to an 11-11 tie in the early going. This is when Pelham’s Emorie Long put together back-to-back kills, followed by a kill from fellow senior Kaytlyn Maddox to give the Panthers three straight points and a 14-11 lead.

Saraland ended up answering right back with a 4-0 run to snatch its first lead of the set at 15-14. Pelham tied things back up with the next point and continued on a 4-0 run after to take a 19-15 lead.

It’s a lead the Panthers didn’t relinquish the rest of the set. Despite Saraland coming within one point at 19-18, Pelham ended the set on a 6-1 run to pick up a 25-19 victory for the second set in a row as they had taken a momentous 2-0 lead in the match.

Pelham came out strong in the third set using the momentum to its advantage and after two early block attempts by Long led to points, the Panthers had taken a quick 4-2 lead and didn’t look back.

They went on to win the final set, convincingly, by a final of 25-10 to pick up their second straight sweep of the day to advance to the super regional semifinals and the Elite 8 of the state tournament.

“Back to the Elite 8, that’s exciting,” Robinson said. “We didn’t make it last year, but had been there the couple of years before, so it’s always good to go back.”

Pelham will take part in the state quarterfinals on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 1, and should they win the semifinals would be later that afternoon and the state championship the following day.