The Lady Greyhounds had one of their better back-row performances in Saturday’s championship against Harrison, with Celine Das scooping up 10 digs. That back-row effort also helped set up Pope’s outside attack.
With Harrison not at full strength due to injuries, the Class AAAAA No. 3 Lady Greyhounds outplayed the AAAAAA No. 2 Lady Hoyas on the front row and won 25-21, 25-20 at Allatoona High School.
“We played solid,” Pope coach Bryan Jones said. “Our serve-receive is better than it was two weeks ago, and our offense is finally bringing in a little firepower.”
Rachel Reynolds led the Pope attack with 13 kills, while Sydney Darden added seven. Kristen Phillips, Christina Bixby and Ashley Savransky had two kills each, and setter Morgan Dees finished with 23 assists.
Harrison’s leading hitter, Caroline Ostman, twisted an ankle in Thursday’s pool-play win over Kell and is expected to miss two weeks, according to Lady Hoyas coach Clay Taylor. Middle blocker Emily Hegstetter is also out with an ankle injury, and setter Kelly Scott played sparingly Saturday with a thumb injury.
Olivia Windover stepped up for Harrison and led the way with six kills, while Taylor Haskins added five kills and two block-assists. Catherine Gallagher set for most of the match and finished with nine assists.
Scott only played the second set and had three assists, two kills, a block assist and an ace.
“In a situation where you have starters down, our focus is to get everyone to step up their game,” Taylor said. “We just played a good team (Saturday). In defense, we were equal. Our serving was equal, but their outsides just overpowered us.”
Pope made a statement in the opening point of the match when Darden hit a kill on the first pass, and the Lady Greyhounds put Harrison in an early bind with a six-point run by Savransky.
Reynolds and Bixby split kills on the first four points of the run before two Harrison errors followed. Pope had a 9-1 lead before Harrison stopped the bleeding.
“In any match we go into, we always focus on the first three points,” Jones said. “To create a big lead over Harrison in the first set was huge for us.”
Harrison actually recovered from the deficit and tied the first set at 16-all on an Andie Karmel kill, but it was unable to take the lead against Pope. Then, a couple of errors helped Pope stretch its lead back to 19-16.
The Lady Greyhounds continued to hold the lead before a Reynolds kill gave them set point, and they converted on their second try with another Reynolds kill.
Pope had the lead for most of the second set, with Harrison one or two points behind, until another service run by Savransky opened a 20-13 lead. Reynolds was busy during Pope’s four-point spurt, hitting three kills and assisting Bixby on a block.
Harrison never recovered after Savransky’s second run. The closest the Lady Hoyas came was four points, and that was after they saved two match points.
Pope made the final match by beating Class A No. 1 Walker (25-17, 25-21) in the semifinal and handling Lassiter (25-9, 25-17) in the quarterfinal. Walker had upset AAAAAA No. 9 North Cobb (25-17, 25-20) in its quarterfinal match.
Harrison’s road to the finals went through Allatoona and Hillgrove. The Lady Hoyas needed to come from behind to beat Allatoona (24-26, 26-24, 15-5) before winning in straight sets against Hillgrove (25-7, 25-22).
In the silver bracket, McEachern defeated Kennesaw Mountain (25-18, 25-20) behind seven aces by Kiara Finley, who also had five assists and three kills.
Savanna Hockman led with six kills, and GiGi Perryman added three for the Lady Indians.