DACULA - Parkview and Dacula went at it for two grueling head-to-head matches on Saturday, but the Panthers won the big one.
Winning a five-game thriller in the finals, Parkview repeated as the Area 8-AAAAA volleyball tournament champion with a gutsy effort against host Dacula, which had bumped the Panthers into the loser's bracket with a 20-25, 25-18, 25-18 win earlier.
In the championship match, Parkview prevailed 11-25, 25-19, 21-25, 30-28, 15-12 to earn the No. 1 seed from the area for Thursday's state tournament.
It was a rewarding triumph for a program that lost six seniors off last year's team to graduation.
"I have a lot of athletes so it was just a matter of training them and getting them to understand volleyball," Parkview coach Catherine Zidow said. "We had a rough beginning of the season, we were probably like 5-12. But we came back and the second half of the season's been really strong. We've just come together, we've got more experience and we're doing a better job with ball control."
The key for the Panthers (32-13) was pulling out the 30-28 fourth game in which they staved off a pair of match points.
"My blood pressure was way up in that (game)," Zidow said.
Area player of the year Audrey Hipple was important again for Parkview, contributing 23 kills on the day. Jordan Flanagan had 44 digs, Amanda France had 26 kills, Libby Lukens had 41 assists and Enjoli Johnson added eight critical blocks.
Parkview earned a spot in the finals by defeating Grayson 25-15, 25-23. Grayson had advanced with a 25-23, 25-27, 25-15 win over Central Gwinnett.
Dacula, the area's No. 2 seed for state, was led by Roselande Corneille's 65 assists. Courtney Williams (24 kills), Sara Beth White (27 kills) and Courtney Weider (38 digs) also stood out for the Falcons (27-9), who did pick up their first win of the season over Parkview in the tourney.
But the Panthers emerged on top, even if it wasn't easy.
"It was a battle with Dacula," Zidow said. "We felt like it would be a good one and we figured it would go to a fifth game."