Panthers overwhelmed

LILBURN - Catherine Zidow calls Parkview volleyball a developing program.

The head coach is not easily pleased.

The Panthers won their third straight Region 8-AAAAA title, claimed a No. 1 seed in the state playoffs and reached the second round of the state tournament this season.

Parkview's volleyball year ended Tuesday with a three-game sweep by No. 3 seed Milton, a team Parkview beat earlier in the season, but that was before losing outside hitter Rebecca Streich to injury.

The Panthers swept Milton on Oct. 3 at the Blessed Trinity Invitational, but 17 days later Milton answered, beating Parkview, 25-8, 25-13, 25-17.

"It's been an up and down season," Zidow said.

On Tuesday, things looked down from the start.

Milton grabbed a quick 8-0 lead on the Panthers, taking an opening sideout and following it with seven straight service points by Stephanie Thelen, who also spent much of the evening tormenting Parkview at the net. The Parkview attack never rallied.

The Panthers scored just one point off their own serve in the first game and that was when Milton misplayed a tipped ball.

"We weren't aggressive at the net," Zidow said.

Milton was.

The trio of Thelen, Delaney Dameron and Riley Forester dominated the play at the net both on the attack and on defense. Many of Parkview's kills were tips rather than hard kills because the Milton hitters were in position. Enjoli Johnson led the Panthers with eight kills and most of those came in Game 3 when the Panthers kept the score as close as it was all night.

Parkview took its only lead in Game 2 on the first sideout by Milton, but the momentum ended there. The Eagles continued to slowly pull away. Parkview tried to rally midway through the game, cutting the deficit to 9-8, but never retook the lead.

"It was just poor execution on our part," Zidow said. "We practiced a lot of things that we didn't execute."

But Parkview didn't quit.

Most of Johnson's kills came in Game 3 and libero Kelly Hayden started to track down the kills of Milton's big three.

"They are very above average," Zidow said of the Milton hitters.

For the first time all match, Parkview stopped tipping the ball at the net and attacking and it kept the final game closer in the early moments. Setter Katie Carroll found both Johnson and Lauren Coleman multiple times for many of her 17 assists.

Even trailing 22-15, the Panthers put together the best rally of the game, getting digs from both Carroll and Hayden to keep the volley alive, and Coleman capped it off with a tip over the Milton hitters.

But Milton finished the match off with a kill, ending the Panthers' season. For a work in progress it's a pretty good finish.

"From where we started the year we are leaps and bounds better," Zidow said.