Both teams are going to be challenged when they host their respective second round opponents tonight. Walker will welcome third-ranked Savannah Country Day while Pope will entertain No. 2 McIntosh.
Walker (32-7) wants to make a statement this year after losing a five-set heartbreaker to Holy Innocents in the second round last year and has enough offensive and defensive talent to vie for a state title this season.
While Pope (41-8) isn’t as dominant as it was last season before graduating six Division I starters, the Lady Greyhounds are still talented enough to defend their Cobb County Invitational and area titles.
Walker has done its homework in scouting out Savannah Country Day. Coach Karen Arndt said the Lady Hornets are big in the middle and has a reliable outside hitter, which could pose a challenge offensively.
“We’re going to have to serve receive well, use the whole net on offense and finish points quickly,” Arndt said.
At least Walker is expected to have its strongest outside hitter Sasha Fazylov back in the lineup after missing the Walker’s first round win over Strong Rock Christian with an illness. Fazylov is normally a strong compliment to sisters Paige and Brooke Warner who anchor the middle positions.
Pope hasn’t faced McIntosh since the Lady Greyhounds beat the Lady Chiefs in the state semifinals last season.
McIntosh, as opposed to Pope, has 10 returning players from last year’s team with only one senior graduating and the Lady Chiefs have only five losses on the year, three of them coming to top-ranked Whitewater.
While Pope underwent growing pains at the start of the season, it’s saving its best volleyball for last, having beaten Northview twice en route to an Area 7AAAAA title after falling to the Lady Titans in the regular season.
For the Lady Greyhounds advance to the quarterfinals, coach Bryan Jones has stressed passing well and playing solid defense behind dig leaders Caroline Ham and Brittany Torres.
“The second thing we need to do is to have a clean transition from defense to offense,” Jones added.
In Class AAAAAA, North Cobb was on the verge of elimination before fighting back to beat Etowah in five sets (25-20, 22-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-13). The Lady Warriors trailed 13-11 in the fifth set before Jessica Elliot’s aggressive serving led to four straight points.
Now the Lady Warriors (33-14) are on the road to face Norcross in the second round tonight. Chances are good for North Cobb. They’ve faced the Lady Blue Devils once early in the season and won in three sets.
“We’ve played them before so it helps us a little bit on what to expect,” North Cobb coach James Auld said. “At least we have a good deal of confidence that we know what we’re getting into.”
Walton and Harrison is on a collision course to meet in the state finals for the second straight year, having both won their first round matches in straight sets. Walton swept Kennesaw Mountain in the opening round and will host Shiloh tomorrow while Harrison plays host to Rockdale County after beating Lassiter in straight sets.
In Class A, North Cobb Christian survived a five-setter over Our Lady of Mercy and will play at No. 10-ranked Holy Innocents today. Allison Hamilton delivered 28 kills and 24 digs in the winning effort.
Allatoona will host Northside, Columbus in the second round of the Class AAAAA bracket after sweeping North Atlanta in the opening round.