While the Lady Greyhounds (25-7) aren’t as dominant this season as they’ve been in seasons past, they’re still in contention to win a fifth county title this weekend. The key for them will be playing consistently throughout the tournament, which starts Thursday at four sites across the county.
The 16-team field will begin pool play at Pope, Allatoona, Harrison and North Cobb before the top eight teams advance to bracket play Saturday at Allatoona.
Pope will host a pool with Kennesaw Mountain, Walker and Campbell, while Allatoona is in a pool with Hillgrove, Mount Paran Christian and McEachern. Harrison will be competing with Sprayberry, Kell and South Cobb, with North Cobb playing host to Lassiter, Marietta and Wheeler.
Walton will miss the county invitational for a third straight year, instead traveling to a tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Pope knows it will have obstacles if it wants that fifth straight title.
Harrison’s gotten stronger, and North Cobb is also in the mix after finishing as the runner-up last year. Lassiter is capable of having a solid tournament, and Class A power Walker is off to a stellar start and is about to find out how it will match up against some of the county’s best.
“This year, with county, I consider this to be Harrison’s tournament or Pope’s,” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “Somebody has to beat Pope, but on paper, with Harrison’s record and victories so far, they look like one of the favorites. There are other teams who are well-coached and can contend with right level of play.”
Pope is 22-7 on the season after losing just twice last season en route to its third straight state title. The Lady Greyhounds still have the talent, but coach Bryan Jones said they are a smaller team than they were a year ago, and they’ve had to tweak their offense to suit their size and skill.
However, Pope is still putting up the numbers, with Rachel Reynolds leading the way with kills.
“We would love to go in there and win five in a row,” Jones said. “We’re trying to become more consistent on everything.”
While Pope is the team to beat, Harrison (22-4) is also a contender based on its record and players returning.
Sophomores Caroline Ostman and Kodi Day are carrying the Lady Hoyas at outside hitter, with Ostman getting the bulk of the kills, and Georgia Southern commitment Kelly Scott is doing most of the setting.
Harrison has won eight of its last nine matches and is undefeated in Area 3AAAAA play.
“We’re just looking to play our game and put ourselves in the best position,” Harrison coach Clay Taylor said. “On Saturday, you’re looking to face either Walker, Lassiter, North Cobb or Pope. It will be a challenge for whoever gets in there.”
North Cobb, which beat Harrison in last year’s county semifinal, is expected to put up a fight. The Lady Warriors are younger than a year ago and are breaking in a freshman setter in Taylor Parrish, but they are still 16-7 on the year.
North Cobb is looking to bounce back from tough three-set losses to Alpharetta and Woodstock over the weekend, losing 26-24 in the third set to both teams. Consistent play is the Lady Warriors’ primary focus, Auld said.
Walker (21-2) could very well be the tournament’s sleeper.
Even though the Lady Wolverines graduated most of their starters from their state quarterfinal team, they’ve won four straight and are getting solid play on the front row from Sasha Fazylov and sisters Paige and Brooke Warner.