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No. 1 Wesleyan beat rival GAC for area crown

NORCROSS - Wesleyan's volleyball program continued to built its tradition Thursday night by sweeping cross-town rival Greater Atlanta Christian to take home the Area 7-A/AA tournament title.

Winning by scores of 25-13, 25-13 and 25-20, the outcome was never really in doubt as the Wolves took home their fifth straight area crown.

"I think we have established some consistency in our program," Wesleyan head coach Ted Russell said. "We've had a lot of kids coming up through the pipeline that have been interested since fourth or fifth grade. We've got a handful of kids that play year-round and that's been really good for us."

The youth movement in Wesleyan's program helped sweep the Spartans. Freshman Anne Marie Armstrong played well at outside hitter and sophomore middle hitter Betsy Smith was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Wesleyan opened up a 14-5 lead in Game 1 and cruised behind the hitting of Smith and senior Paige Cain, who was voted Area Player of the Year. Rachel Galloway also provided three kills in the opening game as Wesleyan cruised 25-13.

The second game was a near carbon copy of the first with Wesleyan again winning 25-13. Caiti Troyer served a pair of aces and Nicole Fenner had her jump serve working as the Wolves scored five points off her serves.

GAC kept the third game close, getting within three points at 22-19. Jennifer Godleski helped keep the Spartans in striking distance with three kills in the match while D'Nay Daniels helped with two more. But the Wolves were able to hold off GAC with six more kills from Fenner and two more from Armstrong.

"We just wanted to make it to state," said GAC head coach Kristi Shelton, who was voted Area Coach of the Year. "Wesleyan definitely played on a higher level than us. We are working on it and trying to get there, but you could just see how incredible their passing was. They kept us off balance all night."

With the runner-up finish in the area, GAC accomplished its goal of going to the state sectionals. The Spartans begin sectional play next Saturday at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville. Wesleyan, which won the state tournament last year, begins defense of its title at home next Saturday in sectional play against Prince Avenue.

"We had four starters from last year, so I knew we had a good chance of winning," Cain said. "Now we just need to focus on the next match and continue what we are doing."

GAC's Christie Howard, who finished with 11 assists and six digs, was named to the All-Tournament team, along with Daniels, who finished the night with four kills and three blocks.

Also earning All-Tournament Team honors for Wesleyan were Fenner and Troyer.