By Lee Wilson
The Parkview volleyball team weathered an early loss, played in three consecutive matches on Saturday and still defeated Central Gwinnett in consecutive games to claim the Region 8-AAAAA title.
It opened up the match with the Black Knights matching them point for point. But in the end, the Panthers proved to be the better team and pulled away at the end of the first game to win it 25-19.
The second game was much different. The Panthers absolutely owned the third game and showed off their great defense and front line. The first point of the game went to Central Gwinnett, and then the Panthers rattled off 13 of the next 15 points and preceded to win the game with relative ease 25-12.
The third game was more of the same and despite a valiant last effort by Central Gwinnett, the Panthers sealed their first regional title in five seasons by winning the last game 25-17.
Melissa Housworth led the Panthers with 19 assists while Jillian Oates had five aces. Audrey Hipple lead the team with nine kills and Abby Batchelor had 13 digs. But the focus for the Panthers was on defense and blocking, according to first year coach Catherine Zidow.
"On Friday night all we did was work on defense and blocking," Zidow said.
Apparently the tactic worked as several Panthers contributed on the defensive front. Amanda France led the Panthers with 31⁄2 blocks, Housworth had 21⁄2 and Corbynne White had 21⁄2.
"I knew that they would be tough up front," said Central Gwinnett head coach Tracey Brown. "They were a little scrappier than we were and that was it."
Sure the talented Panthers ended up on top, but they had to show resilience to get the region crown.
Parkview entered the tournament as the number one seed because it finished the regular season play 25-10 and 6-1 in the region. The Panthers faced Grayson in their third match of the tournament and lost, forcing them to win-out for the crown.
Zidow, who was named region coach of the year after the match, insisted that her team was ready for the challenge.
"This was anyone's tournament, really," Zidow said. "We had great blocking. We really are a defensive team. We also got help from the parents and fans. We told them to cheer and celebrate like every point was our last."
The Black Knights had a much different path to the title game.
They entered the tournament with the No. 5 seed going 14-20 on the regular season and 3-4 in the region. But as Brown said, her team peaked at the right time.
"We prepared them for this regional tournament," Brown said.
"We peaked at the right time and I am very proud of this team, we just ran out of steam."
The Knights had a great run.
Lindsey NeSmith lead the team with 12 assists while Rachel Johnson had five kills and eight digs. Taiwo Adeshigban, who was voted by the coaches as the best player in the region on the season, tallied seven kills. Amanda Drescher also had four kills and five digs.
But the Panthers withstood the momentum of the Black Knights and everything in between to become the region champs.