Pelham starts season with win against Briarwood

Published 3:54 pm Friday, August 24, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

NORTH SHELBY – With a target on their backs this year, the Pelham Panthers’ volleyball team started the season with a bang coming off its state championship run to end the 2017 season.

The Panthers traveled to Briarwood Christian School on Thursday, Aug. 23, and beat the Lions in straight sets by a final of 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-14) to show the young players on this team are ready to step in and lead this team to another incredible season.

Briarwood started the match strong and actually led for much of the first set, but the Panthers were eventually able to storm back to take the first set 25-20, which really shifted the momentum into their favor.

For the rest of the night, Pelham continued to get better and better, and it started in the second set with a strong 25-16 victory that put the Panthers on top 2-0 in the match.

In the third set, Pelham carried over the momentum it had gained in the previous two sets and was able to finish the contest off with an 11-point 25-14 win to pick up the 3-0 sweep and start the season 1-0.

It was a strong start for the defending state champions, who said before the season they are going to have to work together as a team to be nearly as good as they were last year, and while they have some young players, the returnees showed they are ready to lead.

While the Panthers lost players like Emorie Long and Jamila Wilson, two of the leaders of last year’s state championship team, they do return a lot of talent and it showed in this first win of the season.

Playmakers like Sarah Guthrie, Erin Long, Georgia Stonicher and Josie Hester are all back and all four are seniors, giving Pelham several experienced players, which has made the younger players learn faster early in the season.

Long and Guthrie led the Panthers in the kill department of the game with 10 kills each, while Long also added five aces in the win to lead the team. Guthrie was just behind with three aces. Stonicher had 25 assists, something she was brilliant at last season, and also added three aces to match Guthrie.

For Briarwood, Emma Crawford led the Lions with five kills and also added three digs and two aces for the team. Audrey O’Brien led the team with 10 digs, while Kaley Bruce had nine digs, six assists and three aces.

The Lions are a young team that will continue to get better throughout the season as their athletes become more fundamentally sound with game experience.