Winning six straight, however, will be tough.
The Lady Greyhounds are missing three key players to injury, and even though they won’t be at full strength, they won’t be taken lightly by their Cobb counterparts when pool play begins Thursday at Pope, Harrison and Walker School with Allatoona hosting bracket play and the championship Saturday.
The Lady Greyhounds (14-19) are in a pool with Hillgrove, Kennesaw Mountain, McEachern and South Cobb and still have a shot at entering bracket play with an undefeated record.
Harrison, which made it to the championship in two of the past three county tournaments before losing to Pope, is in a pool with Mount Paran Christian, Allatoona and Campbell. Walker, the reigning Class A runner-up and a semifinalist in last year’s county tournament, will host North Cobb, Kell, Marietta and Wheeler.
Three-time state champion Walton is bowing out of the tournament for the fourth straight year. North Cobb Christian School, Whitefield, Osborne, Pebblebrook and Sprayberry are also not participating.
Injuries haven’t been kind this season to the Lady Greyhounds.
Pope coach Bryan Jones said setter Morgan Dees suffered a season-ending ankle injury at the Sequoyah Classic, which started the season. Also, the Lady Greyhounds are without middle hitter Cristina Bixby and are hoping to get her ready in time for the Region 7AAAAA tournament. They will also be missing outside hitter Sydney Darden to a back injury.
To compensate for the injured players, Pope is experimenting with a 6-2 offense that uses two setters and it’s used to running a 5-1 with one setter. Losses have come from players learning the new offense and new positions.
“You might get thrown into positions that we haven’t practiced much in,” Jones said. “We’re not going to sit in the corner and cry. We’re going to fight and push through it.”
And several Pope players have shown they can step up in place of the injured players. Sara Esposito and Kristen Philips are showing promise at rightside hitter. Defensive specialist Celine Das is holding the team together as senior captain and setter Chelsea Calhoun has stepped up as one of the backup setters.
Like Pope, Harrison has been dealing with nagging injuries. The most significant is Kody Smith, who is still waiting to be cleared from offseason shoulder surgery. And leading hitter Caroline Ostman is getting over a concussion and her status is day by day, Harrison coach Clay Taylor said.
Taylor Haskins and freshman Destiny Stewart will get the most reps on the outside if Ostman isn’t ready to go.
The remainder of the Harrison team seems to be healthy for the most part. Madison Bright continues to perform well at setter with Andie Karmel and Katie Doering working the middle.
“We’re still strong, tough and very experienced and are playing at a high level,” Taylor said. “I think we can pull together and make some things happen this weekend.”
With Pope and Harrison not at 100 percent gives Cobb’s other stronger teams like North Cobb and Walker to break through.
North Cobb – led by libero Tate Pember, hitter Savanna Gonzalez and setter Taylor Parrish – is eager to play for another championship after making the finals two years ago. Behind junior hitters Brooke Warner and Sasha Fazylov, Walker is capable of another deep run after making the semifinals last season.
“It will be a good test to see if we’re tough enough to handle the really strong Cobb County competition,” Walker coach Karen Arndt said. “It will be interesting to see if we can right it up and take the next step.”