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GAC storms into state volleyball finals

Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian players Catherine Chason (3), Dede Bohannon (10), Ali Cox (11) and Rachel Waldrop (17) celebrate defeating Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games in the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday.
 Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Waldrop (17) returns a shot against Holy Innocents' during the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games to advance tot he state championships.
 Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Waldrop (17) and teammate Ali Cox (11) defend against a shot taken by Holy Innocents' Colleen Keenan (15) during game 3 of the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games to advance to the state championship.
 Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Jess Baker (4) makes a shot with the help of teammate Morgan McKnight (15) against Holy Innocents' in the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games to advance to the state championship.
 Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Dede Bohannon celebrates a point against Holy Innocents' during game one of the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament played Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' three games to none to advance to the state championship match. 

Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian players Catherine Chason (3), Dede Bohannon (10), Ali Cox (11) and Rachel Waldrop (17) celebrate defeating Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games in the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Waldrop (17) returns a shot against Holy Innocents' during the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games to advance tot he state championships. Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Rachel Waldrop (17) and teammate Ali Cox (11) defend against a shot taken by Holy Innocents' Colleen Keenan (15) during game 3 of the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games to advance to the state championship. Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Jess Baker (4) makes a shot with the help of teammate Morgan McKnight (15) against Holy Innocents' in the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' in three consecutive games to advance to the state championship. Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Dede Bohannon celebrates a point against Holy Innocents' during game one of the state class AA/A semifinal volleyball tournament played Wednesday. GAC defeated Holy Innocents' three games to none to advance to the state championship match. 

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ATHENS -- For the Greater Atlanta Christian volleyball team, it has been a case of getting so close yet so far. The Spartans have advanced to the Class AA/A Final Fours in 2007 and 2009, only to fall short of the championship match.

That little problem has been fixed.

In Wednesday's second of two semifinals at this year's Class AA/A state tournament, GAC looked solid and continued to play well. The Spartans rolled past Holy Innocents' 25-11, 25-16, 25-18 to move on to Saturday's title match.

That's where GAC (41-4) will see Eagle's Landing Christian Academy after the Chargers (37-7) took care of Blessed Trinity 25-20, 25-18, 29-27 in the first semifinal.

The Class AA/A championship match will be played at 11 a.m. at Marietta High School.

And, oh by the way, that's the same ELCA squad that GAC played in the second match of the season back on opening-day Aug. 16 -- a match the Spartans won in two games.

Against Holy Innocents' (29-12), GAC took control in each of the three games with teamwork and poise that head coach Kristy Shelton has come to expect of a loaded veteran team.

"Eight seniors and they're all starters," Shelton said. "Quite honestly, there's very little we have to do as coaches while these girls are on the court. They coach themselves and they fix their mistakes. They also play with such energy and enthusiasm, plus they're so even-keeled all the time and there's very little that stresses them."

That confidence showed on the court against Holy Innocents'.

After posting a convincing 25-11 win in Game 1 -- they jumped out to a 15-4 lead and never looked back -- the Spartans had to battle harder in Games 2 and 3.

Leading 15-11 in the second game, GAC showed its knack for taking a small lead and building it into a more comfortable advantage with a quick spurt.

The Spartans ran off five straight points to take a 20-11 lead en route to the nine-point win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

GAC once again showed that poise in the third and deciding game.

Trailing 6-4 early on, GAC scored on five consecutive points for a 9-6 lead.

The Golden Bears kept fighting, cutting the Spartans' lead to 21-18.

But GAC got a pair of kills from Dede Bohannon and two unforced errors from Holy Innocents' to pull away for the seven-point win and the school's first trip to the championship match.

"I feel like Holy Innocents' is better than when we saw them the first time," Shelton said. "I told my girls that Holy Innocents' would be scrappy and we had to be ready. That first match (against Holy Innocents') was a long time ago. But we've also played some tough competition this season and I feel like we've gotten better. And no matter who you're playing tonight, it was going to be tough because it's the final four."

Bohannon led the way for GAC with 13 kills and 13 digs, while Rachel Waldrop had 28 assists and two aces.

Janaya Simmons was also solid with nine kills and eight digs, and Catherine Chason added 11 digs for the Spartans.

Ali Cox and Morgan McKnight chipped in four kills each and Jess Baker also had four kills to go along with two blocks.