ATLANTA - Wesleyan's path in the state volleyball playoffs once again included Savannah Christian. It just came a little earlier this time around.
The Wolves, who beat Savannah Christian in the state championship match the previous two seasons, defeated the Raiders on Saturday in the Elite Eight of the Class AA/A tournament at Holy Innocents'.
The two-time defending state champions won their first two matches handily before dispatching Savannah Christian for a third straight year, 26-24, 25-19, 25-15.
Wesleyan advances to Thursday's Final Four at Marist, with hopes of reaching the Nov. 4 state finals at Marietta.
"I knew with Savannah Christian being the team that it was going to be a battle," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said. "They're a scrappy team. You have to play your best game against them. Winning that first game was huge. If you lose that first one in best-of-five, you've got to come back and win three of four. Ultimately this is what I had hoped for, but I didn't totally expect it.
"I knew we'd have to play well to do this."
Anne Marie Armstrong led Wesleyan (45-16) with 30 kills along with eight aces on the day, which also included a 25-4, 25-5, 25-5 win over Johnston-Augusta and a 25-6, 25-16, 25-13 victory over Prince Avenue Christian.
Kate Edwards added 18 digs, while leaders Caiti Troyer (67 assists) and Betsy Smith (25 kills) had their usual stellar days.
Both Troyer and Smith reached milestones on Saturday, Troyer reaching the 1,000-assist mark for the season and Smith tallying her 1,000th career kill.
Savannah Christian made the first game with Wesleyan interesting, but the Area 6-AA/A champions slipped by with a 26-24 score. From there, the Wolves picked up their play and rolled fairly comfortably, 25-19 and 25-15 in the next two games.
"They're just one of those teams you always fear because you just know balls that normally hit (the floor) against most teams, they just dig them up, dig them up, dig them up," Russell said of Savannah Christian. "They just wait for you to make a mistake."
But Wesleyan's errors were minimal on Saturday, and Savannah Christian had no answer for the size and hitting of the Wolves' Armstrong and Smith.
The pair kept Wesleyan on track for its goal of a third straight state championship in AA/A, a journey that continues on Thursday.
"I'm relieved and I'm excited," Russell said.
"It would be easy to take this for granted, but I'm excited we get to keep going and play for another one."
GAC wins two before falling to Walker
ATLANTA - Greater Atlanta Christian topped Westside-Augusta (25-9, 25-15, 25-8) and Darlington (24-26, 25-19, 25-11, 25-9) but saw its season end against Walker on Saturday at Holy Innocents'.
Walker beat the Spartans 25-22, 25-14, 21-25, 25-20.
D'Nay Daniels had 37 kills, six blocks and 23 digs while Ashley Agin had 30 kills, six aces and 29 digs. Katie Rowell had 15 kills and 20 digs while Morgan Massey had 25 digs. Alex Shelton added 72 assists as GAC finished its season 39-10.
Dacula tops two, falls to Starr's Mill
FAYETTEVILLE - Dacula finished its season on Saturday night with an overall record of 33-8 after topping Forest Park (25-11, 25-11, 25-8) and Ringgold (25-14, 25-18, 25-14) but falling to Starr's Mill in the Elite Eight at Fayette County.
Starr's Mill defeated Dacula 25-22, 25-15, 25-18.
Rose Corneille had 49 assists while Arielle Rutter had 26 kills. Eve Machovec had 19.5 blocks and 24 kills.
Mill Creek falls to Etowah
LILBURN - Etowah eliminated Mill Creek in the Class AAAAA Sectional A on Saturday with a 23-25, 25-23, 25-13, 25-17 victory at Berkmar.
Olivia Day had 12 kills while Ashley Vaughan had 26 assists for the Hawks, who finish the season with a 29-10 record.