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Three Gwinnett volleyball teams advance

Two Gwinnett volleyball teams advanced to new territory on Saturday while another continued its run of success in the state sectional tournaments.

Both Collins Hill and Parkview reached the state Final Four for the first-time ever, edging a pair of county teams in Class AAAAA sectional finals to reach next week's championship rounds. In AA/A, defending state champion Wesleyan, ranked first in the state, beat second-ranked Landmark Christian for a return visit to the state semifinals.

The three local teams move on to Thursday semifinal matches at Marietta (AAAAA) and Marist (AA/A), where they hope to reach next Saturday's state final. The Final Four matchups will be determined today by a seeding committee.

"Two Gwinnett teams in the Final Four (in AAAAA), wow," said Parkview coach Melodie Cleckler, in her eighth season at the school. "That's very impressive and very new."

No. 4 Collins Hill started Saturday with a 25-13, 25-10 win over Riverdale and followed with two victories over seventh-ranked Central Gwinnett, the first a 25-23, 27-25 triumph. The Black Knights fought back to the finals before the Eagles clinched the Final Four berth with a 25-14, 25-16, 16-25, 25-14 victory.

The 37-9 Eagles hosted the sectional on Saturday, picking up the huge win on their home court.

"It's the first time in the Final Four, so that was one of our goals," Collins Hill coach Stan Carpenter said. "We wanted to make it to the Final Four and see what happens after that. We're happy with where we're at. The girls are playing great. The team's coming back. The injuries are almost over. We're just excited to be in the Final Four."

Collins Hill's Katie Winschel had 39 kills, Jessica Davies had 17 kills and Chelsea Proffit added 14 kills. The Eagles also got 57 assists from Kelsey Foster, 27 assists from Rayven Tirado, 16 digs from Samantha Lum and 15 digs each from Jennifer Daniels and Alex Raffalovich. Raffalovich and Daniels also combined for 16 aces.

Tenth-ranked Parkview pulled a bit of a surprise in the sectional at North Gwinnett, knocking off eighth-ranked Dacula to reach its first Final Four.

The Panthers (36-14) beat Camden County 25-10, 25-15 and defeated Dacula for the first time 18-25, 25-23, 25-21. After the Falcons returned from the loser's bracket, Parkview advanced with a 25-15, 27-25, 26-24 victory.

Jessica Geiger had 41 kills, 40 digs and five aces to lead Parkview along with Leigh Dodson (66 assists, 29 digs) and Marissa Hicks (21 kills, 28 digs).

"It was neck and neck the whole way (with Dacula)," Cleckler said. "I knew it was going to be a fun match. My girls just stepped it up and took care of them."

Wesleyan (44-9) moved a step closer to a second straight state title by rolling through its sectional at home. The Wolves routed Prince Avenue 25-14, 25-8 and beat No. 2 Landmark twice, the first a 25-14, 25-20 win.

They defeated Landmark again 25-21, 25-23, 25-22 to reach the Final Four.

Betsy Smith had 24 kills, 17 digs and six aces for the victors while Nicole Fenner had 14 kills, 17 digs and 13 aces. Wesleyan also got good efforts from Paige Cain (19 kills, eight digs), Caiti Troyer (71 assists) and Rachel Galloway (12 kills, seven digs).

"(The sectional) was a tough round because you had the No. 1 and No. 2 (ranked) teams in the same sectional," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said. "Landmark had four seniors who were very motivated. Fortunately we were able to hold them off and our girls played great."

Also in AA/A, Greater Atlanta Christian's outstanding season ended on Saturday with a pair of losses in the sectional at Lakeview Academy. Athens Academy beat the Spartans 26-24, 12-25, 25-19 in the opener before Decatur edged GAC 25-21, 23-25, 25-22 in another tight match.

GAC (32-15) got 20 kills and four blocks from D'Nay Daniels, 18 kills and eight digs from Jennifer Godleski and 17 kills and two blocks from Ashley Agin. Christy Howard led the Spartan defense with 50 assists and 14 digs.

"It was pretty much a battle all day," GAC coach Kristy Shelton said. "It was very close. It's just a shame we couldn't come out on top."

Central beat Glynn Academy twice to earn the matches with Collins Hill, beating the Red Terrors 25-12, 25-19 in the opener and 25-8, 23-25, 25-16 to reach the sectional finals.

The Black Knights were led by Maida Smajic (45 digs), Karen Green (33 kills, eight blocks, three aces), Amber Kirkpatrick (30 kills, eight blocks, five aces) and Aida Smajic (87 assists, 20 digs, seven aces).

"We had a great season, a championship season. We were definitely the underdog here, but we like that. We fought until the last point. Collins Hill has a great blocking team, a great hitting team, just a great overall team. They were definitely on their game for this one. We've had a great season. I'm so proud of them."