The Lady Greyhounds just hoped they would prevail again this year.
After three straight state championships, Pope came up short Tuesday in the second round of the Class AAAAA state tournament, losing 25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20 to McIntosh at the Hound Pound.
Pope (41-9) won’t be making a trip to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2005, but that has something to do with the bracket pitting four of the classification’s top teams against one another in the second round.
Whitewater swept Northview in the other second-round match of state powers.
In going up against McIntosh (46-5), Pope struggled mostly against the block. Attacks that were typically successful were often deflected back on the Lady Greyhounds’ side of the court, making them overwork.
McIntosh’s Breana Jones came through with three solo blocks and nine assisted block in the match. She often teamed with Saharra Griffin at the net, and the two combined for 13 successful blocks, the last coming on match point.
Jones also led with 16 kills, while Ashley Young finished with 14.
McIntosh ended up with 23 total blocks, with 22 coming after the first set.
“We worked hard on gaining a strong cover behind us (in picking up the block),” said outside hitter Rachel Reynolds, who finished with 14 kills for Pope. “They’re a good team, and we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to.”
The first two sets were close, with Pope taking an occasional lead, but the Lady Greyhounds went through bad patches at the end of both sets, sidetracked by errors and miscommunication.
Just when it seemed like things would go Pope’s way late in the first set, after Reynolds hit a jump serve for an untouched ace to give the Lady Greyhounds a 17-16 lead, things began to unravel.
McIntosh embarked on a five-point service run to break the first set open. Three of the points came on Pope errors.
Pope bounced back and served aggressively to begin the second set. Celine Das set the tone early with her serving and rattled off six straight points to give Pope a 9-5 lead.
McIntosh then started blocking everything the Lady Greyhounds sent back and worked its way back into the set.
On one point late in the second set, the Lady Chiefs blocked three straight attacks by Reynolds before the point ended on a hitting error. Pope also went on to make costly errors late in the second set, allowing McIntosh to go on another lengthy service run to build a 21-14 lead before holding on.
The third set, which the Lady Greyhounds won, was the set where they served their best and kept unforced errors to a minimum. Pope coach Bryan Jones also tinkered with Pope’s lineup to create mismatches.
“We started with the matchups that we wanted,” Jones said. “They just didn’t work too well. In the third set, why not switch our lineup and create something they haven’t seen.”
What also benefited Pope in the third set was not giving up long service runs to McIntosh. But when the Lady Chiefs were able to adjust to some of the mismatches Pope created in the third set, they started blocking well again, forcing Pope into making the miscues it avoided in the third.
Sydney Darden led the Lady Greyhounds with 16 kills, Ashley Savransky finished with seven and Morgan Dees added five along with 40 assists. Caroline Ham was Pope’s defensive leader with 15 digs.