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Wesleyan downs Decatur; championship game next

ATLANTA - It was business as usual for the Wesleyan volleyball team on Thursday.

Betsy Smith had 17 kills, Anne Marie Armstrong had 11 kills and Caiti Troyer had 32 assists to lead Wesleyan back to the state finals.

The No. 1 ranked Wolves defeated seventh-ranked Decatur 25-15, 25-15, 25-22, at Lovett to earn their third straight berth to the state finals.

However, the two-defending state champions will face a different foe than the previous two years.

Wesleyan will play third-ranked Lovett, which beat second-ranked Walker 25-18, 25-23, 13-25, 25-23 in the other semifinal game, for the Class AA/A state championship on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Marietta High School.

"I'm feeling good. We're excited to be in the finals," Troyer said. "We know Lovett is pretty good, so that will keep us focused in practice tomorrow."

In the previous two state finals, the Wolves beat Savannah Christian to win the title, but Wesleyan knocked Savannah Christian out of the tournament last weekend in the Elite Eight.

Wesleyan lost to Lovett in the only meeting between the two teams earlier this year 2-1.

The Wolves' win over Decatur was no surprise, really.

Wesleyan had beaten the Bulldogs the previous three meetings, including in the Area 4-AA/A title game.

Wesleyan also came in riding a seven-match winning streak and with Thursday's 3-0 win, the Wolves have not lost a game in their last 21. Although Decatur gave that streak a bit of a scare in the third game.

Decatur kept the third game close the entire time. Wesleyan would manage to take the lead before the Bulldogs would come back to either tie it or take the lead themselves.

"The third game was a little matter of stepping up and staying focused," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said.

"We did what we had to do with a win."

Two Armstrong kills and an ace by Smith put Wesleyan up 20-18. Decatur kept it a two-point game the rest of the way before Armstrong added her 11th kill of the night for the win.

"I think we just like a challenge," Troyer said. "I guess we just sort of played down to there level for a little bit."

In Game 1, Wesleyan went on a

6-0 run early with the help of consecutive aces by Smith. With the score 17-11, the Wolves reeled off five of the next six points with the help of Smith's aces again and Armstrong sealed the 25-15 game with a kill.

"They come up big all the time," Troyer said.

Decatur kept it close early in game two. The Bulldogs held the lead twice, the last time being 5-4, but then Wesleyan slowly began to creep ahead.

The Wolves mounted a 6-1 run with the help of an Allison Pope ace and two consecutive kills by Smith to take a 20-12 lead. Armstrong ended the game again with a kill for the 25-15 victory.

In the first two games, Decatur only led three times, but never by more than one point.

In Game 3, the Bulldogs led seven times, including a two-point lead early in the game.

"I think the girls know they need to have a better performance than tonight in the next round," Russell said.

Smith also had seven digs and three aces for Wesleyan, while Kate Edwards had nine digs and Haley Collins had five kills, six digs and four aces. A win Saturday for Wesleyan would give the Wolves their third state title making them the first school in Class AA/A to do so.