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Au dismantles Northview defense

DULUTH -- Northview's defense has shut down some of the top offenses in the region this year.

But the Titans' backfield hadn't faced North Gwinnett's Danielle Au.

The senior scored three goals against host Northview on Monday to help No. 4 North Gwinnett to a 4-1 win and the Region 7-AAAAA soccer championship for the second straight year.

"It's nice to have a player like Danielle," North Gwinnett coach Mark Karen said with a smile.

No. 7 Northview (11-2, 8-1) had allowed just five goals all season and no team had scored more than one goal against the Titans. Au changed that in the 41st minute when she scored on a penalty kick to give North Gwinnett a 2-1 advantage.

"That's probably the most excited I've been for a goal," Au said. "We've never been down 1-0 and come back and won."

It's the second straight year North Gwinnett has gone undefeated in the region. The Bulldogs have won 19-straight region games dating back to 2008. Au missed the first month of the season after shoulder surgery. She was expected to return in April, but came back for the second region game of the season in mid-March. The Bulldogs are 14-2 overall and 9-0 in region play, but both loses came with Au not in the lineup.

"We haven't played a lot of quality games since the week we played Mill Creek and Collins Hill," Karen said. "We played our best game tonight. Hopefully, that will be some momentum for us."

North Gwinnett finishes the regular season with a non-region game against Milton on Wednesday. The Bulldogs will host the No. 4 seed from Region 6-AAAAA in the first round of the playoffs on April 28.

Northview took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute when Taylor Tokarz scored on a looping shot from 35 yards over North goalkeeper Lauren Duncan's head. Duncan finished with six saves.

"I got a little worried when we went down one goal," Karen said.

Au had plenty of good shots on goal to start the game, but Northview keeper Hannah Riddle made several diving stops. The senior finished with eight saves. It wasn't until Au's sixth shot of the game that she finally scored on an assist by Kristin Tamburo in the 36th minute.

"Tying it was big. You have to get that equalizer," Karen said.

Au scored the go-head goal on a penalty kick to start the second half when Lauren Harriman was fouled in the box to set up the PK.

"That PK to get the lead was huge," Karen said.

Freshman Taylor Burns scored in the 50th minute on an assist by Jessica Eberhardt to make it a 3-1 game. Au added her third goal of the game off an assist by Abigail Groth in the 61st minute. Au, North Gwinnett's all-time leading scorer, now has 96 career goals.

"When we watched them last week she felt very confident she was going to get it done," Karen said.

Added Au: "We knew this was going to be a big game. It's my last region game and I wanted to go out with a win."