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Sewickley Academy boys lacrosse remained competitive

| Monday, June 6, 2016, 4:57 p.m.

A 5-11 season may not be what the Sewickley Academy boys lacrosse team was shooting for this season, but upon closer inspection, coach Tim Hastings said his team's final record doesn't necessarily indicate the level of talent or dedication his Panthers squad possessed.

“When you look at our season and our record, it doesn't seem like a great record,” he said. “But honestly, if you look at individual games, like losing to Mt. Lebanon in sudden death or losing to North Allegheny by two at their place, we were very competitive. We just didn't get it done in the end.”

Though they did not qualify for postseason play, Sewickley Academy held late-game leads over WPIAL Division I semifinalist Pine-Richland and the eventual WPIAL champs, Mt. Lebanon.

These closely played contests won't necessarily inspire a new set of banners to be hung in Sewickley Academy's gym but for Hastings and his team, it counts for something.

While being wary of making excuses, Hastings can't help but notice the disadvantages his team has when it comes to playing against divisional foes that have enrollments that triple or quadruple Sewickley Academy's.

“I think that a lot of that has to do with our size and the fact that we don't have a lot of players. Some of these programs, you look at the other sideline and they have 50 guys dressed,” Hastings said.

“We're playing with our 18 guys. Overall, it was a good year. The kids played extremely hard, and I think we left everything on the field.”

One of the key players in keeping the Panthers competitive in close games throughout the year was goalie Jackson O'Neill. The senior was named to the all-WPIAL team last year and this season and will continue his lacrosse career at Franklin & Marshall.

“The strength of our team was our goalie this year,” Hastings said. “Any time you have a solid goalie you are going to be in any game. We felt good about trying to make a run with Jackson back there, coming up with big saves for us.”

Offensively, Sewickley Academy will return its leading scorer, junior Ben Mulholland. However, the team will lose other top scoring threats such as Ryder MacDougall, Neill Peirce and Riley Larsen.

Freshmen Charlie Muse, Alex Gordon and Tommy Gordon also will look to build off solid campaigns when they return next season.

The trouble with Sewickley Academy's enrollment and subsequent roster size may continue to plague the program but after seeing how close the Panthers were to knocking off the top-tier teams in Division I this season, Hastings sees no reason for his team to reclassify itself during the next round of WPIAL realignment.

“Things change next year because it goes to Class AA and Class AAA. We are playing triple-A, so we'll keep our rivalries with Lebo, Pine-Richland and North Allegheny. Numbers are always something that we're just going to have an issue with because we are not that big of a school,” Hastings said.

“As long as we're competing with those teams, we'll see where we are. It's fun going out there and knowing that every game is questionable, plus it can be a lot of fun being the little guy.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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