EMERSON — Pope had its chance Saturday to win its second state title in a three-year span, but went up against a Buford team with more firepower.
Three different Buford players came away with double-digit kills on the way to a 25-16, 19-25, 25-13, 25-21 win over the Lady Greyhounds on Saturday in the Class AAAAAA state final at Lakepoint Sports Complex.
Ashley Sturzoiu had 13 kills to lead Buford. Mikayla Hayden added 12 and Kianna Polk had 10. And Sydney Austin was near the double-digit marker with eight kills, making it hard for Pope to keep the ball away from the most dangerous of Buford’s hitters.
Setter Grace Adams had 45 assists.
After finishing with 16 kills in Pope’s five-set win over Sequoyah in the semifinals, Ayanna Rodgers was held to six. She also added a solo block and two block assists. Sophie-Katherine Harvey led the Lady Greyhounds with nine kills, plus three aces. Sadie Woodworth had seven and Addie Eiland had six kills to go with five block assists.
Despite Pope’s struggles against Buford’s hitters, the Lady Greyhounds were blocking well enough to take the second set, and was four points away from sending the match to a fifth set with a 21-20 lead in the fourth.
Buford went on to take the next five points and the match that started with an Austin kill. Camryn Carlton pushed the ball over the net for a kill to give Buford a 22-21 lead. After Pope committed a hitting error, Austin tacked on two more kills to seal the victory.
Buford’s hitters set the tone immediately in the first set when two blocks from Sturzoiu and a kill from Hayden opened a 10-3 lead that the Greyhounds couldn’t recover from.
In the second half, it was Pope that made a run after clinging to an 18-16 lead.
It came on Harvey’s serve when she started it with two aces. Lily Harvey and Eiland combined for a block to make it 21-16. Pope held on to the lead before the Lady Greyhounds evened the match with a solo block from Rodgers.
But Pope could not carry that momentum into the third. Buford was clicking on all cylinders offensively to start the third set and a Polk kill broke the set open with a 13-6 lead. Buford went on to take the third set on a six-point run with three of them being Sturzoiu kills. Austin also had a kill during that run along with a block assist.