SUWANEE -- Three weeks before the volleyball postseason, defending Class A/AA champion Wesleyan is again proving itself a contender.
The latest evidence came Saturday, when the Wolves repeated as the only champions of the 4-year-old Gwinnett County Tournament, this time beating North Gwinnett 25-16, 25-21, in the final at the Suwanee Sports Academy.
The victory backed the Wolves' sweep of Duluth, Buford and Grayson in pool play Thursday, then elimination-bracket victories Saturday over Parkview (25-11, 25-16), Greater Atlanta Christian (25-18, 25-27, 25-20) and the Bulldogs.
Wesleyan (25-13) jumped ahead of North (37-3) in the first game Saturday and never trailed. The second game, however, was another story. The Bulldogs led by as much as five, before Anna Davis' block for Wesleyan tied the game 17-17. North pulled from 23-19 down to within 23-21, but Grace Leah Baughn's dink and a North block barely wide made Wesleyan the champion.
"(North) started out that second game by placing the ball really well, and we weren't moving on defense," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said. "We finally started challenging in the front row and making ourselves a presence at the net. That made a big difference."
Baughn, who recorded her 1,000th career kill against Buford on Thursday, had six kills and five digs against North and finished Saturday's three matches with 36 kills. Alana Broe chipped in six kills against North, while Ansley Maughon and Davis had five each.
Maggie Smith had 19 assists against North and 62 total on Saturday.
The championship marked the Wolves' 15th consecutive victory and halted the Bulldogs' win streak at 26.
Wesleyan survived a scare in the tournament semifinal, when it needed those three games to eliminate GAC. The Spartans are the only team -- twice now -- to push the Wolves beyond straight games during their streak.
"It's a matter of refocusing and doing what we do well," Russell said before the final. "We have to be well-rounded and not too one-dimensional."
Entering matches Tuesday against King's Ridge Christian and host Blessed Trinity, Baughn believes Wesleyan is equipped to challenge for its sixth Class A/AA championship in the last seven seasons. That's turnabout from the Wolves' six straight losses in the season's first week and their 10-13 record before embarking on their current streak.
"We knew this season would be a work in progress and we had to be patient," Baughn said. "I think we have our confidence now."