MARIETTA -- At the beginning of the season, Pope was not sure who was going to contribute offensively.
Now, the Lady Greyhounds have almost everybody contributing offensively.
Seven players recorded multiple kills Saturday as Pope eased to a 25-15, 25-18, 25-15 victory over River Ridge in the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals.
Defending state champion Pope, in the final four for the third straight season, will play at Sequoyah on Tuesday for a chance to return to the state championship match.
Pope’s middle blockers lead the way offensively, with Ayanna Rodgers and Lily Harvey totaling nine kills apiece. Caroline Wiseman added seven.
Zaren Yesilova, who switched from defensive specialist to outside hitter, also had seven kills, while Madison Mims added six kills to go with her 17 assists.
“At the beginning of the season, we were still trying to figure out what we were going to look like,” Pope coach Shawn Darling said. “Who was going to be our offensive weapons? What was going to be our offensive style? For us, we are a team where everybody contributes offensively. That’s something that has really made a difference.”
Pope beat a scrappy River Ridge team that made it into the playoffs as Region 6AAAAAA’s No. 4 seed before winning a pair of five-set matches over Apalachee and Richmond Hill on the road.
For the first half of the first two sets, Pope (37-12) and River Ridge (30-17) were evenly matched. Both made plays, both traded leads.
But once the sets reached 15-all, Pope gained the upper hand.
The first set was decided on a 10-point service run by Adair Hutchinson, who served four aces during the stretch. River Ridge made just one error during those final 10 points, with the other nine ending with aces and kills.
River Ridge seemed to bounce back from the late first-set lapse by jumping out to a 5-2 lead in the second on Emily Cheek’s serve. The Lady Knights stayed in control of the second set until the Lady Greyhounds rallied to tie it at 15-all.
But once the score reached 17-all, Yesilova served out the remaining eight points to give the Lady Greyhounds a two-set advantage. Four of Wiseman’s seven kills came during this run.
An early five-point service run by Ava Vlokovic opened up a 12-5 Pope lead in the third. An additional four-point run on Yesilova’s serve upped the lead to 18-8, making it tough for the Lady Knights to make a comeback.
Madison Logan and Abby Infante led River Ridge with four kills each, while Reagan Keener finished with three. Gabbi Phillips contributed with 11 assists.
“We’re proud of the girls and proud of the season that we had,” River Ridge coach Julie Winfield said. “A No. 4-seed team making it to the elite eight is something to be said. I don’t think a lot of people thought we’d make it here, and our girls stepped up to every challenge that we faced.”