Pelham picks up straight-set win against area foe

Published 4:38 pm Wednesday, September 26, 2018

By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter

PELHAM – It’s been a strong start to the 2018 volleyball season for the Pelham Panthers and despite a difficult five-set loss to Chelsea on Thursday, Sept. 20, the Panthers were able to get back on track with a region win against county-foe Calera on Tuesday, Sept. 25, sweeping three straight sets.

Pelham, ranked third in Class 6A, is now 18-2 and has won 12 matches in a row with the 25-9, 25-18, 25-10 win against the Eagles.

Pelham and Calera traded 6-0, 6-1 runs to start the first set, but the Panthers began to slowly pull away from there using seven kills and two aces to dominate the rest of the way, including a 12-0 run to close the set.

Strong closes proved to be the theme for the Panthers all evening.

The killer instinct is something the defending champs have been honing and knowing when to strike has become second nature at this point.

“Seeing that the end is near and then deciding, hey, we’re going to clean this up and play,” Pelham head coach Perry Robinson said.

It wasn’t easy breaking the will of the visiting Eagles, but the Panthers started strong again pulling out to a quick 5-1 lead in the second set.

Calera drew within a point at 8-7, and then proceeded to battle back to tie the set at 15, but couldn’t weather the onslaught from outside hitters Sarah Guthrie and Erin Long, who combined for eight kills in the period.

Again, Pelham closed on a strong 10-3 run to force a third and final set.

True to form, the Panthers took control from the outset and took seven of the first nine points from Calera.

The teams volleyed back and forth over the next eight possessions before the Panthers overwhelmed the Eagles scoring 13 of the final 17 points, including an 8-1 run.

Long sent her fourth kill of the set crashing to the hardwood for the final point of the closing set.

Long finished the match with 14 kills to lead the team and added 11 digs. Guthrie registered 10 kills and had a team-high 13 digs and three aces.

“Sarah was a left side hitter for us all last year so she’s had that year of experience,” Robinson said. “Erin we moved from the right to the left side and she’s been building to get play in that position. They’re just consistent, strong players that bring it most every night.”

Team setter Georgia Stonicher paced the Panthers with 33 assists on the night while chipping in seven digs and two aces.

After a bout with Homewood on Thursday, Sept. 27, the Panthers will resume area play with three straight road matches against Helena, Chelsea and Calera in October.