Pelham headed to semifinals for 2nd straight year

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, October 31, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – For the second consecutive year, the Pelham Panthers volleyball team is headed to the semifinals of the Class 6A playoffs after taking down Buckhorn in straight sets (25-14, 25-23, 25-13) on Wednesday, Oct. 31, to continue their path toward defending the 2017 state championship.

The Panthers will now look to take defeat their second 50-plus win opponent in one day when they take on No. 1 Spanish Fort (63-5) in the semifinals later tonight at the Birmingham CrossPlex. The Toros won their opening match against Muscle Shoals (25-7, 25-15, 25-10)

Pelham’s opening set against Buckhorn started with promise thanks to a strong service game from Georgia Stonicher to put the Panthers up 7-3. They went on to extend that to 10 points at 19-9 shortly after.

Buckhorn put a slight 5-0 run together to get within five points but the Panthers bounced back to close the set out on a 6-0 run to take the first set 25-14 for a 1-0 advantage.

Set two had a completely different feel.

After playing from in front the entire first set, the Panthers were forced to play from behind in the second set.

Buckhorn started the set on an 8-2 run and looked to be taking control in what appeared to be Pelham’s match in the first set.

Erin Long’s serve, however, helped the Panthers get back in it with a 3-0 run, before Sarah Guthrie started showing her impressive play at the net.

Pelham still trailed 16-12 at one point, but Gigi Germek erased that deficit quickly with a strong service game. She, along with more stellar kills from Guthrie at the net, led the Panthers to eventually take a 23-20 lead with an 11-4 run.

Buckhorn got back within a point at 24-23, but Pelham closed it out one point later to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

With the Bucks now down to their final set, they battled early in the third set, but neither team could sustain a run early on, which led to a 6-6 tie.

That’s when Pelham put together its first run, and with momentum already on the Panthers’ side, that seemed to be the final blow for Buckhorn.

The Panthers eventually took an 11-7 lead before the Bucks got within two points at 12-10, but from that point forward it was all Pelham. The Panthers went on to close the set and the match out with a 13-3 run for a 25-13 set victory and 3-0 match sweep.

Guthrie’s strong play at the net led to 14 kills, which led the team, while also leading the team in aces with four and tying for the team lead with 13 digs.

Long finished second in the team with seven kills, while also adding 10 digs. Stonicher had three aces, while picking up 32 assists. Macie Jones added five kills and led the team with six blocks.

Pelham’s match with Spanish Fort will take place at 5:30 p.m. on court seven.