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Going for 4
Wesleyan downs GAC, will face Lovett for fourth-straight state title

ATLANTA - Betsy Smith didn't want her final volleyball game to sneak up on her.

She didn't want to stand shocked on a court, watching another team celebrate. She wanted to know the date and time.

Now, she does.

Smith and her Wesleyan Wolves cruised into Saturday's Class AA/A state final match against Lovett with a 25-10, 25-19, 25-17 win over GAC on Thursday at Marist. And Smith led the way.

The senior, and leader of the three-time defending state champion Wolves, racked up 11 kills, seven digs, four aces and a pair of block-assists to lead Wesleyan back to where it's used to being - the state finals.

"I have played this (tournament) thinking this could be my last game playing in a Wesleyan uniform," Smith said. "Now, I am going into Saturday and I know it is my last game and I can just lay it on the line."

Wesleyan scored most of its points against GAC the way it usually scores, off the serving and hitting of Smith and Anne Marie Armstrong. Armstrong notched a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs to go with her two aces and two block-assists.

But it was the Wesleyan defense that never allowed the Spartans any chance to make a run. GAC scored just 18 points in all three games off its serve. The rest came on side outs. The longest scoring string Wesleyan allowed was five points in the second game. The Wolves' Brooke Atkinson added to the defense's cause with nine digs.

"That is a testament to their power," said GAC head coach Kristy Shelton. "They have so much power. It was hard to get in a rhythm."

Said Wesleyan head coach Ted Russell: "For us, when we get into a rut on our serve-receive we look to our defense to make big plays."

The big plays started with Smith.

GAC took a 6-5 lead in the first game off an ace by Alex Shelton, but a side out gave Smith the serve and the senior rattled off four points, included a pair of aces to put the Wolves up 10-6. Wesleyan pulled away from there, finishing the first game with a display of skill and power of Armstrong and Smith.

"I think most of (the slow start) is since we are so young, the young kids had to get the jitters out," Smith said. "Once that happened Anne Marie and I took our leadership, showing how to play this match and leading into our match on Saturday."

Wesleyan scored the final six points of the game with Armstrong serving and Smith hitting. The two combined for five kills and an ace in the stretch, with Smith powering down four balls.

The final two games were similar with Smith and Armstrong taking most of the hits and Smith's younger sister, Maggie, doling out her 19 assists to go with her five serving aces.

Senior Allison Pope sealed the match with a kill for the final point.

Now Wesleyan is back in the state finals, going for its fourth-straight title against a Lovett team that swept Holy Innocents' 25-15, 27-25, 25-19 to reach Saturday's finals. It is a Lovett team that boasts five seniors. All who remember losing to Wesleyan in three games in last year's final.

"Last year we had six seniors, you can ride that a long way and we rode that (to the championship)," Russell said. "They are actually more experienced than we are. We'll be looking for our younger players to respond."

But Wesleyan has Smith. She's been there. She knows what to expect. And she knows it's her last match.

"I am just going to play my last game with no regrets and lay it on the line," Smith said.