Pelham wins 5-set thriller to advance to Final 4

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

BIRMINGHAM – It took five sets of thrilling volleyball between Brewer and Pelham, with both teams season on the line, for the Pelham Panthers to advance to the Class 6A Final 4 thanks to a 3-2 win (22-25, 25-10, 24-26, 25-19, 15-11).

Coming into the match, Pelham held a 38-9 overall record and the No. 3 seed out of the South Super Regional; while Brewer was 33-15 and the No. 2 seed out of the North Super Regional.

It was one of the more thrilling volleyball matches you’ll see, and it started in the first set. Both teams battled in the early going with the largest lead being three-point Pelham lead in the opening set.

Pelham continued playing from in front and eventually built a 21-17 lead after an incredible rally, but Brewer turned up the pressure and went on a 4-0 run to tie the score at 21-21.

The two teams swapped points over the next couple of rallies to a 23-23 tie, before Brewer ended the set with two straight points for a 25-23 set win and a 1-0 advantage.

The Panthers responded to the adversity by opening the second set on a 15-5 run and only allowed five more points after that to win the set with ease, 25-10, to tie the match at 1-1.

Pelham started in similar fashion in the third set as the momentum carried over and led to a 6-4 lead early. Brewer, however, responded with a 7-1 run to take an 11-6 lead.

The Patriots eventually extended their lead to 17-13, but Pelham fought back to trail 21-19 late in the set. Pelham tied the score at 22-22 shortly after. The two were deadlocked for the next several points up to a 24-24 tie thanks to three kills by Emorie Long and one by Jamila Wilson, but Brewer went on to win the final two points of the set for a 26-24 win and 2-1 lead in the match.

The Panthers were facing pressure again and they felt it early in the fourth set as they fell in a 3-0 hole. They were able to dig their way out of the hole, however, thanks to a 5-0 run as they snatched the lead right back.

Pelham took that momentum and ran with and eventually gathered a lead as big as 17-10, but Brewer fought back slightly. The Patriots cut the lead to 17-15, but never got any closer as the Panthers went on to win set four with their season on the line, 25-19, to force a fifth and final tiebreaker set.

With the winner set to move on to the Class 6A Final 4, both teams came out fighting hard, which led to a back-and-forth start to the fifth set. That being said, Pelham never trailed in the crucial set, and after an 11-11 tie, the Panthers ended the match on a 4-0 run to win the final set 15-11 and the thrilling match 3-2.

Emorie Long led the Panthers with 20 kills, while Jamila Wilson and Sarah Guthrie added 14 and 13, respectively. Grace Nolen led the team with 19 digs, while Wilson added nine. Georgia Stonicher continued her impressive season of assists with 52 for Pelham. The Panthers also got seven combined aces from Nolen and Guthrie.

Pelham will now take on Daphne in the semifinals of the 6A State Tournament at 5:30 with a trip to the State Championship tomorrow on the line.

Photos available at shelbycountyphotos.com