Photo: David McGregor Parkview's Elizabeth Quintanilla and South Forsyth goalie Hannah Goudy collide during the first half of the Panthers 2-1 victory over the Eagles in the semifinals of the Class AAAAAA state tournament on Tuesday.
LILBURN -- Parkview girls head coach Judson Hamby spent the final minutes of Tuesday night's Class AAAAAA semifinal match holding his breath, thanks in part to the furious rally put together by South Forsyth.
But as it has all postseason, the Parkview defense made plays when it was challenged, helping to preserve the Panthers' 2-1 win over the War Eagles.
And when the final horn sounded, Hamby was finally able to breathe easy, knowing his team had just secured its first finals berth since 2009.
"People had been telling me that (South Forsyth) was going to scrap until the end," Hamby said. "They came back from behind against Duluth and Walton and we knew we were going to have to fight until the end. At the end, we dodged a bullet but defended when we needed to."
The Panthers (19-3) came out of the gates in clear control, getting off four shots on goal in the first five minutes, helped in part from three corner kicks.
The third of those corners provided the best opportunity for an early goal, but a header was knocked out by keeper Hannah Goudy and the rebound was kicked out right at the line by one of the South Forsyth defenders.
That early dominance for Parkview would finally pay off in the 16th minute when Emma Carlson took control of a loose ball at the top of the box, getting off a succesful shot with her left foot for the 1-0 lead.
Parkview's offense kept Goudy busy all night, getting off 12 shots on goal, nine of which were stopped by the South Forsyth keeper.
Despite the offensive dominance of Parkview, South Forsyth's defense and Goudy were able to turn away most possessions, keeping the War Eagles in the match.
Still, Parkview looked to finally take control with more than 38 minutes left when Elizabeth Quintanilla put the Panthers up 2-0 with a goal.
On the play, Goudy came out to try and grab a long pass in the box but was unable to do so, leaving Quintanilla an easy shot after controlling the loose ball.
After that, South Forsyth (16-6) finally found itself on offense and started putting together solid possessions. That led to Rachel Shah, who came into the match with 17 goals, working her way into several scoring chances.
The first of those came minutes after Quintanilla's goal when she found herself open with the ball in the Parkview box. However, Shah was run down by Sarah Nguyen, who turned the ball away before the shot was launched.
With 21 minutes left, Shah had her best chance when a Parkview defender slipped, leaving Shah one-on-one with Parkview keeper Mariah Garner.
Instead of waiting back, Garner came off her line and challenged Shah outside, sliding into her lane and knocking the ball away before the shot was taken.
However, South Forsyth kept at it and finally broke through when Shah took a soft corner kick, just the War Eagles' second corner of the night, and fed Brie Haynes, who was able to get it past Garner to cut the score to 2-1 with 9:17 left.
The War Eagles kept pressing after the goal, but Parkview managed to thwart each attack, including two throw-ins into the Panther box in the final 20 seconds. Nguyen led the defensive attack for Parkview along with Allison Litchfield.
"I thought we were about to get scored on there at the end, especially after that corner, which came out of nowhere," Garner said. "I kept talking to my defense and midfielders, telling them to get back and clear the ball and cover. It's so exciting to get to the finals because this has never happened to me."
The goal by Haynes was the only true shot on goal for South Forsyth, but the flurry of aggression by the offense late in the match still provided plenty of drama.
"Parkview had a very potent attack but we were able to defend well and keep ourselves in the game," South Forsyth head coach Tom Braun said. "We spotted them two but were still able to fight back. It's been a great ride this year and hopefully we can learn from this experience."
If Parkview is to bring home its eighth state title, it must defeat a team it lost to earlier in the season in Harrison. Harrison reached the finals by nipping Brookwood 1-0 with a 4-2 advantage on PKs. The finals will be played Saturday at either the University of West Georgia or Kennesaw State University, pending the announcement from the GHSA.