North Gwinnett entered the Gwinnett County Championships as one of the top volleyball teams, yet situated behind the favorites as a No. 4 seed. The underdog Bulldogs finished on top, though.

North won three matches Saturday, toppled the top two seeds in the semifinals and finals and earned Gwinnett bragging rights back after a year’s hiatus.

“I am so beyond proud of the passion and grit this team played with,” North head coach Kristina Stinson said. “Every single person on the team contributed to our success (Saturday), and it was truly incredible to see them come together and fight until the very end. The love they have for each other is so apparent in the way they battle and celebrate every single point. Wow. This team is such a fun group to be with every single day. Coach Taylor Ray and I are beyond grateful and blessed to coach such an amazing group of girls who love this sport and each other so much.”

After opening Saturday’s bracket play with a 27-25, 25-19 win over Grayson, North won a three-set battle with defending county and state champion Hebron 25-18, 20-25, 15-13.

The Bulldogs followed that up with a 25-19, 21-25, 15-12 victory over No. 2 seed Buford in the finals. It was just the second loss of the season for Buford (23-2), and the Wolves’ first to a Gwinnett opponent.

“At the end, it was pretty cool just because everyone was so excited,” Stinson said. “Everyone had been working really hard and they really came together as a team. From the moment they stepped in the gym, even from when they saw each other in the morning, you could tell they wanted it.”

North (21-5) began building momentum toward county earlier in September.

“I think beating Hebron two weeks ago at home was pretty big,” Stinson said. “That gave us some confidence, especially for the girls going in (to county). They were ready to do it again. I don’t think there was ever a doubt in their mind. They were going to get it.”

North even played the final day shorthanded with starting setter Abby Taylor, Hannah Barber and Micah Diffley out. Their teammates stepped up.

In the three matches Saturday, Joya Screen (25 kills, six aces, nine digs, two blocks), Izzy Durnell (20 kills, 22 digs, six blocks, three aces), Laura Thomas (14 kills, three aces, three digs, two blocks) and Macey Sipmann (14 kills, eight blocks) led in the attack. Shannon Quinn delivered at setter with 64 assists, 13 digs, three aces and two blocks, while Lindsay Kahren (24 digs, 2.23 passing average, seven assists) also played well in Saturday’s matches.

With county over, the Bulldogs can look forward to the upcoming Region 8-AAAAAAA Tournament at Peachtree Ridge, followed by the state playoffs. The county championship boosted North’s confidence for those tourneys.

“I think the girls just know what we’re capable of doing now,” Stinson said. “We had a couple of players down this weekend, and just realizing they were able to (win county), no matter what, that just says a lot about the team and where we’re going.”

Hebron goes 1-1

Hebron Christian went 1-1 at the final day of county, beating Norcross 25-16, 25-15 and losing 25-18, 20-25, 15-13 to eventual champion North.

The Lions (32-5) were led by Malia Fisher (21 kills), Emma Tennant (nine kills, 15 digs), Carly Heidger (eight kills), Angelia Bonner (26 assists) and Morgan Smith (12 assists).

Wesleyan goes 2-2

Wesleyan won two of its four Saturday matches in the county tournament.

The Wolves (26-9) defeated Duluth and Providence by 2-0 scores, but lost to Mill Creek 2-0 and GAC 2-1.

Providence falls twice

Providence Christian lost 25-11, 26-24 to Wesleyan in Saturday’s county tournament, and also lost in two sets to Greater Atlanta Christian.

The Storm (19-19) got good days from Callie Chapman (32 assists), Maisy Hufford (11 kills), Ryan Jeremiah (10 kills) and Taylor Lewis (16 digs).

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