Pelham volleyball continues torrid start, now 15-3 overall

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HELENA – Pelham’s volleyball team is firmly back in the driver’s seat early in the 2021 season thanks to an impressive first 18 games.

Following two losses in their first four matchups this season for a 2-2 start, the Panthers bounced back with 11 consecutive wins to improve to 13-2 on the season.

They then lost their third match of the season on Saturday, Aug. 28 with a 2-1 loss to Bayside, but have now once again bounced back with two consecutive wins.

The team’s three losses have now come to Class 5A No. 1 Bayside, Class 7A No. 6 Bob Jones and a tough national team in Briarcrest Christian.

After the loss to Bayside, Pelham bounced back with a confidence-boosting 3-0 sweep of Jasper with wins of 25-17, 25-25 and 2512. That win wasn’t a bad one either, with the Vikings sitting at No. 9 in the 6A classification.

That led into an important rivalry battle with region foe Helena on Thursday, Sept. 2.

Looking to improve to 2-0 in region play, Pelham didn’t flinch in the slightest.

With one of the most difficult early-season schedules among Class 6A teams, the Panthers look well-prepared for the matchup, and it showed in the opening set.

In the opening set, they fell behind 5-4, but then bounced back with a 10-5 run to storm in front 14-9.

Pelham didn’t look back from there, eventually building up to set point at 24-18, when a spike by Elizabeth Hayhurst put the first set in the books at 25-18.

The two then played to an early 2-2 tie in the next set, but a kill from Hayhurst, an ace from Camryn McMinn and a block from Averi Smith quickly made it 5-2.

Helena brought it back to within two after that, but that was as close as the Huskies could get.

The Panthers then sprinted away from there to take a commanding set win by a final score of 25-13 capped off by a Smith kill, which gave the team a 2-0 advantage in the match.

Helena, however, brought some fight to the court in the final set with the match on the line.

In an uphill battle, the Huskies played to an 11-11 tie.

But a two-point stretch on a kill from Jones and a block from Victoria West helped the Panthers take a 13-11 and swing the momentum back in their favor.

They went on to win 12 of the next 19 points to close out a 25-18 set victory and an area sweep.

With the win, Pelham improved to 2-0 in area play and 15-3 overall on the season.

Smith and Courtney Proffit tied for the team lead with 12 kills, while Hayhurst added five and McMinn three. Smith also led the team with two aces.

Tammy Melendez led the team with 16 digs, while Hayhurst added eight. Smith and Jaden Jones also had six digs in the win.

Shay Walsh continued to play the ball well this season and led the team with 31 assists.