No. 7 Pelham beats No. 4 Chelsea in four sets

By SETH HAGAN | For the Reporter

PELHAM – The top 6A volleyball programs in Shelby County met Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Pelham High School. The No. 7 Panthers played host to the No. 4 Chelsea Hornets and held serve to deal Chelsea their second loss of the season 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 13-25, 25-22).

“We knew coming into tonight this would be one of our toughest matches of the year,” Pelham head coach Perry Robinson said. “We are still finding ourselves and lineup after lineup our kids stuck together and to play as hard as they did to get this win that was a great job by them.”

Every Pelham win was battle, and the first set featured 14 ties and six lead changes with neither leading by more than three the entire exchange. Senior outside hitter Erin Long was particularly dominant early on sending five kills into the hardwood as Pelham took a 14-11 lead.

Chelsea battled back with a 6-1 run, lost the lead and gained it again late 21-20. However, a few errors coupled with great service game from senior Ashley Anderson closed out the Hornets to end the first set in Pelham’s favor at 25-22.

The second set was almost a mirror image of the first with six lead changes and 10 ties. The Panthers overcame seven service errors with three aces and took advantage of the Hornets’ 15 unforced errors to squeak by in the set with a 25-23 victory for a chance to go for the sweep at home.

Chelsea had other ideas and had a nearly flawless third set to stay alive with eight kills and four aces. Junior outside hitter Zoe LaBreche was outstanding down the stretch with four kills, as the Hornets quickly pulled away for their only win, 25-13.

The Panthers returned to form and gutted out the close out set with six aces, nine kills and three blocks. Senior Jerica Snowden collected four of those aces hitting on back to back shots on two instances.

Long was great along the net again and senior middle hitter Kennedy Chambers had a superb stretch late with two blocks and a kill to help Pelham pull away for the big area win and the upset.

“We need to score points from the service line, that’s one of our main tenants,” Robinson said. “It’s only Jerica’s second year with us and she plays a lot of beach volleyball and serves aggressively and we love what she brings to us.”

The win gives Pelham (16-6, 2-0) an early leg up in the Area 8 standings while Chelsea (18-2, 1-1).