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Wolves defend title

SUWANEE - Wesleyan's Anna Keappler will get to add another feature to Wolfie.

Wolfie, the stuffed toy mascot of the Wesleyan Wolves, is awarded to the team's most outstanding player after every match. The winner gets to add another piece of clothing or jewelry.

On Saturday, that privilege went to Keappler in honor of the Wolves winning their second straight Gwinnett County tournament at Suwanee Sports Academy.

"I have no idea what I'm going to put on him, he has so much stuff on him already," Keappler said. "I had some good serves and played good defense today. We really had to step it up to show we were as good as these other schools. It was hard."

Wesleyan opened its day by just edging Greater Atlanta Christian in three games, then swept Parkview 25-16, 25-20 in the semifinals. Norcross earned the right to play Wesleyan in the title game with a win over Collins Hill in the quarterfinals and a 25-16, 25-19 sweep of Mill Creek in the semis.

The trend of two-game sweeps continued in the finals with Wesleyan taking the title in two tight games (26-24, 25-23).

But those last two wins did not come easy.

"I think we found out that a lot teams in Gwinnett are pretty good," Wesleyan head coach Ted Russell said. "Norcross played really well and they are a great team. They are a lot bigger across the net and we had to learn to play with that."

Both teams featured big hitters - Wesleyan's Anne Marie Armstrong and Norcross' Tiffany Clarke and Briana Jordan. Armstrong and Clark battled back and forth in both games, but it was a monster kill by Armstrong that helped dig Wesleyan out of a hole in Game 1.

Norcross led 24-23 and was serving for the game, but a kill attempt by Anjelica Wilcox barely sailed long over the back line.

That opened the door for Wesleyan and Brittany Price came in to serve with the score tied 24-24. Armstrong, who finished the day with 53 kills and nine aces, put the Wolves up by a point with a huge kill down the middle. Price served again and Grace Leah Baughn, who totaled 18 digs and 14 kills on the day, sealed the first game with a big kill of her own.

The final game also came down to the wire. With the score knotted at 23-23, Armstrong again scored a massive kill for a one-point lead and Maggie Smith, who finished with 70 assists and eight kills, served an ace to seal the Wolves' second straight county title.

"For the whole day, I thought we played well," Norcross head coach Kevin Dove said. "We ran into a highly motivated Wesleyan team. We were in a good position to win but at the end, we didn't do what it took to get those final one or two points and Wesleyan did."

Clarke, who had 10 kills in the match against Wesleyan, finished the day with 32 kills and 3.5 blocks while Rachel Monteagudo tallied 63 assists, 25 of those against the Wolves, who were one point from losing to GAC earlier in the day. That Spartans won the first game and were up 24-23 in the second, but couldn't close out the tenacious Wolves.

Wilcox led the Blue Devils in aces with nine.

Grayson also finished the tournament on a high note by winning the Silver Bracket with a 26-24, 25-19 sweep of Providence.