Area 3 champion Harrison (45-6), last year’s state runner-up in the old Class AAAAA, will be hosting Lassiter (20-26), the No. 4 seed out of Area 4 on Thursday. Area 3 runner-up North Cobb (32-14) will host No. 3 Etowah (30-17).
Hillgrove (29-12), the No. 3 seed out of Area 3, will be at Area 4 runner-up Woodstock (33-14), and No. 4 seed Kennesaw Mountain (19-34) is on the road against Walton (29-7), winner of the last two Class AAAAA state titles.
“You’re going to be playing them anyway,” North Cobb coach James Auld said about the first-round draw with Area 4AAAAAA. “You might as well get them out of the way early.”
Harrison may be favored to beat Lassiter — having beaten the Lady Trojans twice already — and The Lady Hoyas are healthier with leading hitter Caroline Ostman back after a three-week absence to rehabilitate an ankle injury.
While Lassiter has had a tumultuous season with a younger squad, the Lady Trojans have been known in the past to play their best when the season was on the line.
Led by outside hitters Becca Ledford and Kendal Smith, Lassiter played beyond its No. 6 seed in the area tournament, upsetting No. 4-seed Roswell for a spot in the state tournament.
“They have smart players with great volleyball IQ and some really good athletes,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said of Lassiter. “We’ve got to be on our toes playing defense against them and have to be on our game.”
North Cobb and Hillgrove will be going up against two teams — Etowah and Woodstock, respectively — with strong back-row defenses, and they could be in for a few long points and long sets.
The two Area 3AAAAAA rivals have been in lengthy matches as of late, with one coming against each other. North Cobb needed three sets to beat Hillgrove for a spot in the area tournament finals.
Hillgrove also needed three sets to beat Kennesaw Mountain and set up its match against North Cobb.
Shayna Williamson and Kelly Arnold have been the offensive catalysts for Hillgrove as of late, while North Cobb has gotten solid defensive production from Tate Pember and Jessica Elliott.
Kennesaw Mountain has gone through a transition year with a younger team, but the Lady Mustangs played arguably their best volleyball in the area tournament. They beat McEachern in three sets a first-round match before a loss to Harrison put them in the losers’ bracket.
Kennesaw Mountain bounced back to prevail over Douglas County to secure at least a No. 4 seed in the state tournament before its loss to Hillgrove set the seeding in stone.
The Lady Mustangs have the misfortune to play at top-ranked Walton. McEachern (21-16), which ended up the fifth seed out of Area 3AAAAAA, will travel to 2AAAAAA runner-up Newnan (22-16).
Pope and Allatoona won their respective area tournaments and will go into the Class AAAAA state tournament as the No. 1 seeds of Areas 7 and 6, respectively.
Pope (40-8), shooting for a fourth-straight state championship, will host Loganville (19-22) in the opening round. Allatoona (20-15), which won an area title for the third straight season, will host North Atlanta (16-10).
In Class A, top-ranked Area 4A champion Walker (31-7) will open against Strong Rock Christian (25-13).
“I feel real good about where we’re at,” Walker coach Karen Arndt said on Walker’s chances of playing for a state title. “We have a reasonable shot of getting through the next few rounds and playing for state in November.”
North Cobb Christian (20-9), which fell to Walker in the area championship, will welcome Our Lady of Mercy (21-13). Mount Paran Christian (18-21-1), Area 4A’s No. 4 seed, will be tested right away at Landmark Christian (37-14), the state’s No. 2-ranked team.