Pelham volleyball opens season with tri-match split

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Looking to continue a winning tradition on the volleyball court in 2019, the Pelham Panthers got off to a sound start to the new season on Thursday, Aug. 22, with their usual tri-match hosting Vestavia Hills and Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.

While the Class 6A No. 5 ranked Panthers fell to the Vestavia Hills Rebels in a thrilling match, they showed several positive signs against the No. 9 team in 7A, before then bouncing back to sweep the Patriots later in the night with ease.

Against the Rebels, Pelham was able to get off to a solid start with a 25-23 first set victory. That set the stage for a thrilling match where neither team won a set by more than two points, including a nail-biting final two sets.

Needing to win the second set to stay alive and avoid being swept, Vestavia Hills bounced back. The teams traded runs, but neither really pulled away, which led to a tight contest down the stretch.

Needing to win by two, the teams became even at 25-25 after one match point was killed off.

The Rebels, however, bounced back to win the next two points to take the second set 27-25 and even the match at 1-1.

Playing to 15, the final set was no less thrilling as the two teams matched each other point-for-point.

After eventually battling to a 14-14 tie, the Rebels were able to get match point at 15-14, and for the second set in a row, they capitalized by winning that final point to close out a 2-1 victory in the match.

Erin Long led the Panthers with nine kills and 13 digs in the first match, while Ashley Anderson had an impressive assist total of 22. Elizabeth Hayhurst added eight kills and a team-high two aces.

In the match against Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa, the Panthers bounced back and took advantage of the will to win after that opening loss.

Pelham came out firing in the first set and left no doubt with a 25-12 victory that saw the Panthers lead the majority of the way. Following a 3-3 tie early on, Pelham pulled away for a 14-8 lead and never looked back outscoring the Patriots 11-4 the rest of the way.

The second set ended up being slightly closer as Hillcrest made a late run, but the Panthers were still able to pull away for a comfortable win taking the set victory 25-18 to sweep the match 2-0.

Long and junior Jaden Jones both totaled seven kills in the match, while sophomore Tammy Melendez led the team with eight digs. Anderson, Long and Kennedy Chambers all posted three aces in the victory.