Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian's Janaya Simmons (18) and teammate Rachel Waldrop (17) celebrate a point as GAC defeats Mill Creek to win the Gold Division final of the Gwinnett County volleyball finals Saturday.
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SUWANEE -- For the first time since the inception of the Gwinnett County volleyball championships five years ago, there is a new team on top.
Greater Atlanta Christian went undefeated throughout the tournament to take home its first title.
The Spartans (30-4) unseated four-time defending champion Wesleyan in the semifinals (25-16, 25-15) before taking care of Mill Creek in the gold bracket finals (25-7 26-24).
"It's a nice win for us," GAC head coach Kristy Shelton said. "This was one of our goals coming into the season."
The Spartans (ranked No. 2 in AA/A) started the first game scoring 11 straight points, using mistakes by the Hawks and good passing to get ahead. Janaya Simmons' kill put her team up 11-0. GAC continued to dominate the first game with more great passing, getting kills by Ali Cox and Morgan McKnight en route to a 21-2 lead.
Mill Creek (29-11) rattled off four-straight points to make the score 21-6, but GAC scored four of the next five points to take the first game.
Shelton admitted the first game was something of a surprise.
"This is the third time we've played them this year and that first game was very uncharacteristic for them," Shelton said. "We knew they were a better team."
The second game was much closer -- in the beginning. The Hawks came back from a 7-2 deficit, closing the gap to 8-6 on a kill by Ashley Isaac after Jordan Rooks dug the ball out on a kill attempt by GAC. The Hawks (ranked No. 9 in AAAAA) got within 9-8 before the Spartans scored 12 of the next 16 points to go up 21-12.
Mill Creek rallied again, rattling of eight-straight points to get back into the game. In fact, the Hawks took a 24-23 lead. However, Shelton called a timeout and settled her team down, which came back to score the next three points for the 26-24 win.
"We relaxed a little too much," Shelton said. "That's my fault because I was a little relaxed and they saw it. But we pushed through their comeback and were able to get the win."
The Spartans were led by Dede Bohannon with nine kills and nine digs, Simmons with seven kills and three blocks, and Kathryn Chason with nine digs. Rachel Waldrop also had 16 assists and four aces.
For the Hawks, Jordan Rooks had 10 digs, while Emily Wylie had five kills and Kaitlyn Lattimer had 13 assists.
To advance to the semifinals, Mill Creek won an emotional semifinal match against North Gwinnett, dropping the first set 25-23, before rallying for wins in the next two sets, 25-21 and 15-9.
In that match, Isaac led the team with 12 kills, while Kim Brody had 10 kills and Lattimer had 28 assists. For North Gwinnett (39-7), Kristina Stinson had 16 kills, while Alex Panks had six kills and 25 assists, and Miller Howard had eight kills.
In GAC's semifinal victory over Wesleyan, Bohannon led the team with 11 kills and 11 digs, while Simmons had six kills and eight digs, and Waldrop had 16 assists.
The silver bracket saw third-seeded Parkview beat fourth-seeded Hebron (28-26, 25-21) for the title. In the silver bracket semifinals, Hebron topped Mountain View (25-19, 25-21), while the Panthers defeated Grayson (25-19, 25-22).