No. 1 Wesleyan tops No. 2 GAC for 6-AA title

NORCROSS -- Two years without a state championship is hardly a long time, but it can seem that way if you've enjoyed as much success as the Wesleyan volleyball program.

The Wolves won four straight titles from 2004-2007 and another in 2009. Now they may be poised to get back on top this season.

No. 1-ranked Wesleyan will be the favorite in the Class AA state tournament after defeating No. 2 Greater Atlanta Christian in four sets on Thursday night at its Yancey Gymnasium to claim the Area 6-AA title.

The Wolves (33-11) won the first two sets 28-26 and 25-20, then closed out GAC (26-9) with a 25-22 victory in the fourth set after the Spartans had come back to take the third 25-19.

"When this team is focused and playing aggressively with confidence, it is very good," Wesleyan coach Ted Russell said. "We just have to make sure that team shows up on a regular basis.

"The difference between the state championship teams of the past and this team was the level of consistency on a nightly basis."

Wesleyan showed how good it can be at times in the first two sets against GAC, then was outplayed in the third by the Spartans before recovering.

"We certainly did what we had to do to win," Russell said. "I think there were a lot of nerves out there on both sides. When you have the top two teams according to the polls, there is a lot of anxiousness.

"I think it was a good match for both of us to play. That is the level of pressure that you have going along in the state tournament.

"GAC is a team I wouldn't be surprised to see again in the Final Four if we are fortunate enough to get that far."

Kristy Shelton, who led GAC to the Class AA title match a year ago, was proud of the way her team bounced back in the third set. She just wished the Spartans could have kept it up.

"We gave up the momentum," the coach said. "We let them fight back."

Kendra Koetter, who came to Wesleyan this year when her father, Dirk, was named offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, had 41 assists, seven digs, three aces and two kills in the victory.

Hannah Hoskin just missed a double-double with 13 kills and nine digs for the Wolves. Lauren Frerking had 12 kills and four aces, and Jennifer Miller -- the Area 6-AA player of the year -- recorded 25 digs. Anna Davis and Katie Van Lacke each contributed eight kills, while Natalie Connor had 10 digs.

Wesleyan, down 9-4 early, closed out the long first set by scoring six of the last eight points, the winner coming on an ace by Connor.

The Wolves jumped to a 6-1 lead en route to winning the second set. But the Spartans scored the first five points in the third set and never trailed in forcing another set.

The fourth set was tied at 20 before Wesleyan took control. The match ended rather anticlimactically with a serve into the net by GAC.

Emma Taylor had a double-double for the Spartans with 14 digs and 10 kills. Jennie McCarty recorded 28 assists, while Tayler McPherson contributed 15 kills and Emily Becker had 16 digs.

"I always enjoy facing Wesleyan," Shelton said. "Did you see how many times they called a touch? They have integrity and that is what we also believe in. There is always great sportsmanship."

The Wolves and Spartans have already met four times this season, Wesleyan winning three times. A fifth meeting could be up coming in the state tournament.