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Pope Volleyball on the Right Path

By David Herron MDJ Sports Writer, MDJ Online 9-16-2022

Pope’s volleyball team is setting itself up for another deep run in the Class AAAAAA playoffs

Pope’s volleyball team is setting itself up for another deep run in the Class AAAAAA playoffs

After advancing to the state semifinals last year, the Lady Greyhounds are 28-4 in 2022, and they have gone 4-0 in Region 7AAAAAA play.

On Thursday, Pope was able to enact a little bit of revenge.

Buford knocked Pope out of the playoffs last year and went on to win the state title. The Lady Wolves had also won the first meeting between the teams this year, but the Lady Greyhounds responded Thursday by beating them 2-1.

In addition, Pope knocked off St. Pius X, last year’s Class AAAAA state champion, 2-0 to complete the tri-match sweep.

Pope community coach Erica Miller said getting Buford, St. Pius X and others on the schedule was all part of the plan to make sure her team was ready come playoff time.

“The teams we lost to last year, I wanted to get on our schedule for this year,” said Miller, a former college player at Wright State and assistant at Auburn.

That is not all. Pope has also played and beaten a number of other traditional state powers this season, including 2021 Class A Private champion Mount Paran Christian, Class AAAA champion Marist, Kennesaw Mountain, Creekview, Sequoyah, Walker and Woodward Academy.

The Lady Greyhounds are a young squad, with the roster mainly made up of sophomores (five) and juniors (seven). They are led by Sophie-Katherine Harvey, Cooper Abney and Abigail Jhun.

“They are our heart leaders for sure,” Miller said.

The team has only two seniors — Jhun and Becky Blaydes, who is committed to play at Berry.

“Our seniors are great kids,” Miller said. “They provide the appropriate amount of leadership. We have a strong junior class. We go fast pace in training and try and get our younger kids up to speed.”

So far, Miller’s blueprint is working. Four players have more than 100 kills this season — Harvey (287), Ellis Crawford (183), Blaydes (134) and Sarah Trowbridge (109).

Five players have more than 100 digs — Dayla Ortiz (302), Harvey (171), Abney (171), Blaydes (129) and Jhun (102) — while Abney is leading the team in assists with 599.

“We are deeper this year,” Miller said “We’re more of a team. A lot of girls are contributing.”

Entering the final few weeks of the season, things are not going to get any easier.

On Tuesday, Pope will face off with last year’s Class AAAAAAA state runner-up, Alpharetta, which is now a region opponent. Two days later, the Lady Greyhounds have another region match against Blessed Trinity, a semifinalist in Class AAAAA last season.

Those two matches will likely determine the region title and playoff seeding.

“A lot of our girls know them,” Miller said of Alpharetta. “We have to play our best volleyball to beat them.”