Only this time, the Lady Greyhounds won't be defending their Class AAAAA championship from a year ago. Instead, they will be playing for the Class AAAA title after dominating Johns Creek 25-14, 25-6, 25-15 in Wednesday night's semifinal at the north Fulton school.
Pope (53-1), which has won its last 31 matches, will face Chattahoochee in the final Saturday at Marietta. The Lady Cougars (51-5) swept Marist in the other semifinal.
Whether Pope was to determined to win, or too experienced not to lose, it didn't take the Lady Greyhounds long to establish themselves against Johns Creek (37-12).
"These girls knew what their goal was coming in being AAAAA champions from last year," Pope coach Bryan Jones said. "They really wanted to come down and make a statement after the move to AAAA.
"We had some really solid teams move down to AAAA, with us and Chattahoochee and Kell and a couple of others, but they wanted to start a good strong season and play that way all the way through."
It was historic night for Mary Hoey as the senior totaled 10 kills to give her 1,859 for her career, breaking the state record of 1,852 formerly held by Sequoyah's Stacey Plein.
Hoey also had three digs, a block and an ace.
Mary Hannah Arrington completed the match with a double-double, with 10 kills and 11 digs to go with two aces
Sarah Morris added 10 kills and two blocks for Pope, while Danielle Thompson led with 13 digs. Mikaela Tracy finished with a team-high 34 assists and Leslye Barnett collected a team-high four blocks.
Pope broke out of the gates quickly in the first set after back-to-back service aces from Arrington started a 7-1 run. Leading 8-3, Pope increased its margin to 11-3 after a Johns Creek attack error and finally to 21-12 following a kill from Arrington.
Pope totaled 15 kills and three service aces in the first set as the Lady Gladiators never threatened and committed several attack errors.
The Lady Greyhounds were even more dominant in the second set. Pope established several runs early on take leads of 5-1, 9-2, 14-3 and 19-4 before settling on the 25-6 margin. Tracy, Hoey, Thompson and Katie Bange all had extended service games that generated three or more consecutive points.
"These girls are just experienced," Jones said. "They're able to read situations and get in there and anticipate a little bit. One of our goals every year is to be the best we can be defensively, and I think we've done that so far. We have good hitters as well, and they complement each other with what the defense and the offense does."
The intermission between the second and third sets helped the Johns Creek regroup. The Lady Gladiators went step-for-step with Pope early in the third and tied the contest at 6-all following a kill from Brittany Boslet.
The Lady Greyhounds responded with two straight points from Arrington for an 8-6 advantage and never looked back. A combined block from Becky Moye and Boslet trimmed Pope's lead to 12-11, but the Lady Greyhounds came back with two different three-point spurts to help go on top 20-13.
With a 24-15 lead, Hoey's kill closed out the third set, giving Pope the match victory and a shot at another state championship.
"It was neat to win our first state title last year," Jones said. "(Class) AAAA has some good, tough competition in it. Hopefully, we can keep it up for one more solid match."
Moye led Johns Creek with nine kills, while Boslet had four and Emily Cappai had three.