Pelham wins tight battle with Briarwood in area opener

Published 4:33 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

PELHAM ­– Both the Pelham Panthers and Briarwood Lions fought a close battle throughout their first meeting of the season on Tuesday, Sept. 12 as each team sought a win to open up area play.

In the end, Pelham walked away with the victory after taking the first two sets of the match and winning the match, 3-1, after earning a win in the fourth set.

In the opening set, Pelham had a slight lead towards the end, but Briarwood remained in striking distance as the set entered the final points. The Panthers had the last word, however, and they took the first set, 25-20.

With Pelham now up 1-0 in the match, Briarwood continued to bring the fight to the Panthers, and Pelham only had a 24-22 lead going into set point.

Even with the Lions lurking close behind, the Panthers closed out the set to secure the 25-22 win and go up 2-0 in the match.

The next two sets would prove to be even less comfortable for both sides. The Lions and Panthers forced extra points in the third set, and Briarwood gained the upper hand with its first set win of the match in the frame.

The Lions won the third set, 26-24, after they won both extra points to close the gap to just 2-1 in the match.

The fourth set went to extra points as well, and this time, the bonus pair of points was even more crucial as Pelham had the chance to win the match, while Briarwood could have sent the match to a fifth and deciding set.

Ultimately, it was Pelham who won both extra points to flip the script on Briarwood from just a set prior with a 26-24 win of their own, which secured the 3-1 win to start area play undefeated.

Pelham’s Jojo Miller led the team in kills with 16 and hit for +.364, and Camryn McMinn and Londyn Wynn both impressed with 13 kills each.

Kylee Hester racked up 41 assists while directing traffic for the offense, and over on the service line, Juliana Bitas won four aces.

On defense, McMinn led in digs with 21, and Hester, Bitas and Caroline Hamby each earned 13 digs as Pelham earned 20.3 digs a set for 81 total. Aubrie Smith had three total blocks and Miller and McMinn each had two to wrap up a well-rounded day for the pair.

Pelham will face John Carroll on Thursday, Sept. 14 for its second of three straight area matches. As for Briarwood, the Lions will travel to Helena on the same day as they look to bounce back from their area play opening loss.