Pope

Pope players and coaches pose with the Region 6AAAAAA championship trophy after beating Kennesaw Mountain in the title match Thursday.

MARIETTA — Pope claimed its second straight region title, rallying from a two-set deficit to defeat Kennesaw Mountain on Thursday in the Region 6AAAAAA final.

After Kennesaw Mountain (33-12) won the first two sets 25-18 and 25-17, Pope (35-7) rebounded to win the next three 25-23, 26-24 and 15-3 to earn the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

“That is the character of our team,” Pope coach Erica Miller said. “We talked about how our soul — our “gut girl” — is the heart of who you are. At different times, we saw her come out, but for tonight, everybody brought her out and let her go. We know what she looks like for the Pope volleyball team now, because that was a never-quit effort I saw out there (Thursday).”

Middle blocker Ayanna Rodgers and outside hitter Sophie-Katherine Harvey were instrumental parts in Pope’s comeback.

“In the locker, we just all came together and just let all put it out there because we really have nothing to lose,” Rodgers said. “In the first two sets, we were really frazzled because, when we played Kennesaw Mountain in past times, we’ve usually had less of a problem. This time, they really came to play and we were shocked by that. I feel like us just coming to terms that they’re not going to give it to us easily pushed us to come back and fight.”

Pope came out in the first set scoring three of the first five points, but Kennesaw Mountain regained control, and power hits from Cydney Burnett, Leila Gainsford and Emily Maddox helped give the Lady Mustangs the boost to eventually take their first lead of the set, 14-11.

Leading 18-17, Kennesaw Mountain pulled away with a 7-1 run to clinch the set.

Kennesaw Mountain brought the momentum into the second set, taking a 4-0 lead, but Pope spread the floor and began to dive for low shots to come back and tie it up at 6-all.

What then ensued was a back-and-forth affair between both squads.

The Lady Mustangs regained the edge, capitalizing off of defensive miscues and taking a 17-11 lead. Pope was able to pull within five points, but miscommunication allowed Kennesaw Mountain to get its last burst to take the set.

In the third set, the Lady Greyhounds found their tempo to go on a 8-2 spurt for a 15-12 lead. Spikes from Ella Harris and Harvey gave Pope the energy it needed to extend its lead 22-15, and Kennesaw Mountain’s efforts to fix its communication issues and offensive errors but efforts were too late as the Lady Greyhounds took the set.

Pope opened the fourth set taking a 4-1 lead, but Kennesaw Mountain rallied to go ahead 18-14. The Lady Greyhounds capitalized on two middle-court hits and forced the Lady Mustangs to make defensive errors.

Kennesaw Mountain held match point at 24-18, but it was unable to close. Pope drew energy from its home crowd to go on a 7-0 run to win the set.

With the fifth set only going to 15 points, Pope was able to flip the script, opening on a 8-0 run. The fatigue began to show for Kennesaw Mountain as it let the Lady Greyhounds rolled to the match-clinching set victory.

“We just ran out of steam,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Jessica Feder said. “Momentum was on (Pope’s) side. We had (match) point in the fourth set, and we just didn’t execute.”

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