Buford's Mikayla Hayden in action at the net during the 2020 Class AAAAAA state finals against Pope.

Reigning Class AAAAAA state champion Buford enters this week’s Gwinnett County Volleyball Championships with eyes on another title, one that has eluded it of late.

The Wolves haven’t won the Gwinnett championship since 2017, when they won the last of five straight county titles. They enter this season’s event, which begins Thursday with pool play at six sites, as the favorite to end that streak.

Led by California commit Mikayla Hayden and Ashley Sturzoiu, Buford opened this week with an 18-2 record and an unbeaten mark against in-county teams. Both of its losses have come to St. Pius.

Buford is one of five programs that can claim a county title in the tournament, which turns 15 this year. Wesleyan won the first four Gwinnett championships and five of the first six (Greater Atlanta Christian won in 2011) before Buford went on its run from 2013-17. North Gwinnett won in 2018 and 2020, while Hebron Christian was county champion in 2019.

GAC joins Buford as a top contender at the county tournament. The Spartans (18-6) have an 11-match winning streak since losing to Buford (25-20, 25-9) on Aug. 31. Dacula also is in the middle of a big season with a 31-6 record heading into this week — its in-county losses have come to Buford and Mountain View.

After Thursday’s pool play at Meadowcreek, Parkview, Peachtree Ridge, Mill Creek, Discovery and GAC, the teams begin bracket play Saturday. Saturday’s hosts are GAC for the Gold Bracket — the county title match is slated for noon — along with Lanier for the Silver Bracket and Berkmar for the Bronze Bracket.

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