Four-time title defense stifled

Something happened on Saturday evening that hadn't in five years. Wesleyan's volleyball team lost a postseason match.

The second-ranked Wolves lost 3-1 to No. 1 Westminster as the teams battled it out in a brutally tough quarter of the Class AA/A bracket. In the end, the Wildcats, who dropped down from AAA for this season, emerged with a 25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22 win over host Wesleyan.

The loss, Wesleyan's first since an Elite Eight loss to Walker in 2003, ends its hopes of a fifth straight AA/A state championship. Meanwhile Westminster advanced to this week's Final Four.

"I told (the players) they played hard and they played against an exceptional team," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said. "There's always emotion and there are seniors involved. We tried to focus on, this loss doesn't define who you are. This group of girls has a tremendous amount of character and they had a tremendous season."

Wesleyan (47-8) coasted into the showdown with Westminster, winning 25-11, 25-12, 25-9 over Jefferson in the first round and 25-11, 25-19, 25-15 over St. Vincent's in the second round. But it got much tougher in the quarterfinals.

Westminster (38-2) handled the Wolves' typically dangerous serves, limiting them to an unusually low three aces. Wesleyan also had 12 missed serves, but still rallied from 2-0 down to force a fourth game.

Star Anne Marie Armstrong led Wesleyan with 62 kills (she finished with more than 700 on the season) and 45 digs in the three matches, Grace Leah Baughn had 30 kills and 27 digs and Maggie Smith added 96 assists.

"It was a heck of a high school match to watch," Russell said of the Westminster loss. "You want to be in a situation where your kids have to play their best to win."

Armstrong is one of four Wesleyan seniors who played their final match on Saturday. The other graduation losses are Brooke Atkinson, Madison Boyd and Brittany Price.

The foursome leave Wesleyan with an impressive run of dominance, even if their senior year ended two matches short of the ultimate goal.

"We've been very blessed to be in a position to compete for the title," Russell said. "You can't win it every year. That's part of the deal. My hope is that the ones who are coming back, (this loss) will make them that much hungrier."