Pelham’s season ends with hard-fought loss in Super Regionals

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – The Pelham Panthers won’t make it to the state tournament for the sixth time in seven years after coming up one win short on Wednesday, Oct. 21, in a Super Regional loss to Northridge.

Despite a spirited effort late, the Panthers lost 3-1 (25-12, 25-20, 25-27, 25-23) in the matchup with the Jaguars, which prevented them from advancing to the Sweet 16 at the state tournament a week later.

But the Panthers, who have several juniors on the roster this year, are primed for a bright future and a return to the state tournament in the near future after showing strong fight near the end of the match.

Early in the opening set, the Panthers looked to be off and rolling like usual in the Super Regionals by gaining an early 5-2 advantage.

But Northridge responded with a 6-0 run to take an 8-5 advantage, and that’s all the Jags needed to gain momentum for the first two sets.

They eventually extended that run to 15-2 by taking a 17-7 lead as the panthers couldn’t get in a rhythm. Pelham got as close as eight points at 12-20, but didn’t score again the rest of the set as Northridge closed out a 25-12 victory for a 1-0 lead.

In the second set, Pelham had chances to seize control of the set with different momentum boosts, but the Panthers never could capitalize struggling to win multiple points in a row.

Northridge quickly doubled up the Panthers by jumping out to a 12-6 lead.

But that’s when Pelham started to show the promise it has. The Panthers responded with a 6-2 run to get within two points.

The early deficit, however, was too much to overcome. Northridge called a timeout and came out to win four points in a row, before eventually takin a 19-13 lead.

Pelham battled back one more time to make it 21-19 and have a chance in the set, but Northridge called another timeout and came out of it ready to close out the set. The Jaguars closed the set on a 4-1 run to pick up a 25-20 victory and take a 2-0 lead.

The Panthers, however, were able to find some success late in the second set, which carried into the third set. It was a tightly contested set, but Pelham was fighting with its season on the line.

Pelham jumped out to a quick 4-2 advantage, but Northridge led for the most part throughout the set, and eventually pulled in front 20-15, making the Panthers’ chances to stay alive look slim.

But Pelham turned it on from there. The Panthers put together a 7-2 run to even the match at 22-22 and followed that by taking a 23-22 lead.

Northridge, however, won two points in a row to earn match point at 24-23 and put the Panthers one point away from their season ending.

But the Jaguars couldn’t put it away. Pelham came back to take a 25-24 lead and eventually won the set 27-25, showing that a young group could handle the pressure.

Still needing to win two more sets to keep their season alive, the Panthers came out and got off to a strong start with a 5-3 lead in the fourth set.

But as the Jaguars did all afternoon, they came back with a strong run to eventually take a 15-10 lead.

The only difference now was Pelham’s confidence, which was growing throughout the match. The Panthers stormed back to eventually take a 19-17 advantage.

But continuing to use timeouts, Northridge never let the Panthers seize full control, which led to a back-and-forth match the rest of the way.

The two eventually ended up tied at 23-23 before the Jaguars took a 24-23 lead for the second set in a row.

This time, a hard-fought point ensued, but the Panthers weren’t as fortunate as the previous set with Northridge winning the set 25-23 to complete the 3-1 victory.