Panthers' amazing run ends in Final Four

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

LILBURN -- A new, painful emotion swept over The Big Orange Jungle on Wednesday night and it was shared by Judson Hamby and his seniors.

Hamby had never finished a season with a loss during his four-year tenure as Parkview's girls soccer coach. His seniors had never lost in the postseason, either.

All that changed when fourth-ranked Northview (15-2) stunned the host Panthers for a 2-1 victory in the Class AAAAA semifinals, winning despite giving up a goal in the fifth minute to Kim Spence. The Titans advance to Saturday's state finals at North Gwinnett, while the Panthers' three-year hold on the championship is over.

"What a heck of a ride," Hamby said. "We knew one day somebody would play better than us and Northview played well enough in the second half to deserve it. This was our fifth semifinal in five years. What a great ride for our seniors. From their freshman year they carried us and that's why we were so successful. The seniors only lost four games in four years."

Unfortunately one of those was their last.

It stopped an amazing run for the Parkview seniors, who sport an 81-4-2 record in four seasons. They had an 18-game playoff unbeaten streak that also ended Wednesday night.

Four of those seniors -- Spence, Maureen Buff, Kansas Bayly and Elena Karakizis -- were starters their entire careers.

"With their leadership, I felt like we could win any game," Hamby said. "I hate to see them go. They have modeled excellence for us. They've put in the dirty work and set the example in every game, every practice."

Parkview (18-2-1) started fast with Spence winning a battle with the Northview goalkeeper in the fifth minute. The quick strike was the Auburn signee's school-record 33rd of the season.

But barely more than a minute later, Northview's Hannah Riddle made a follow shot after Amanda Schwartz hit the crossbar and the game was tied.

"I thought (Northview's) inexperience would show when we scored right away, but we got a little careless and gave up a bad goal," Hamby said. "But when it got to 1-1 we were OK. We were fighting until the end. I just didn't think our final product tonight was sharp enough to win."

The pressure intensified in the 53rd minute when Northview's Daria Gound beat a midfielder to a ball and sent a ball near the top of the penalty area. Teammate Shelby Apps then got past a defender and the Parkview goalie, finishing into an open net.

Parkview pushed hard for the equalizer, but a good effort by Spence was saved, as were two strong headers off corner kicks by Bayly, who like her fellow senior Karakizis was moved up into the midfield late in an attempt to tie.

Both players had been anchors of the Panther defense as marking backs the past four seasons.

"Because our work ethic and our efforts of our senior class, it has set the bar high for the state of Georgia," Hamby said. "Maybe somebody else can win it and do something like we did. But we'll be back."