Sewickley Academy boys lacrosse looks to re-emerge
Passion for Sewickley Academy lacrosse courses through the veins of boys coach Tim Hastings. His father, Phil, and Dick Webster launched the school's program more than four decades ago. Tim learned the game as an elementary school-aged team manager, and progressed to become a high school All-American for the Panthers in 1976.
“I have such great memories of Sewickley, and of the people who influenced my life,” Hastings said. “The lacrosse program has always been about working hard, doing it the right way, and being good sports.”
It's a tradition that Hastings, who went on to achieve All-American status at Towson and play professionally in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League, has upheld since he moved back to the region and became Sewickley Academy's coach in 2011. But the Panthers, coming off a disappointing 5-11 season in 2016, are looking to restore the program to its former glory.
“For so long, Sewickley Academy was winning championships. But lacrosse has become so more and more competitive,” Hastings said. “The bigger schools are playing, they've got great athletes, and they've got the numbers.”
The Panthers' 2016 record is a bit deceptive. They lost by just two goals to North Allegheny, and took Mt. Lebanon to double overtime before coming up short. Those two teams squared off for the WPIAL Division I title last year.
“We were competitive,” Hastings said. “Our goal this season is to finish those games this year, and come out on the winning end.”
Sewickley Academy is led by a quartet of seniors: midfielder Ian Deihl, defensemen Chris Gonzalez and Teddy McClain and attacker/midfielder Ben Mulholland. McClain is a Franklin & Marshall recruit, and Mulholland will continue his career at Washington and Lee.
“They're our four leaders, but it's not an in-your-face style of leadership,” Hastings said. “They're the first at practice and the last to leave, and they're always out there on weekends, getting kids together without the coaches.”
The Panthers also are counting on contributions from junior midfielder Peter Curran, a fine defender and faceoff player who will take on more offensive responsibility this season. So will junior midfielder Brian Weir, while sophomore Dan Phillips will be called on to stymie opposing offenses.
Lacrosse can be a numbers game, and Sewickley Academy is working to ensure it's prepared for late-game situations in 2017.
“When you lose games late, it's often because you get tired in the fourth quarter,” Hastings said. “The reality is, we can't put out midfield unit after midfield unit — we don't have that kind of depth. We need to be very savvy with the ball, know when it's time to push it, and not force plays. We need to have stamina to make plays late, and we can do that by not wasting energy early in games.”
The Panthers will seek redemption in 2017 in a highly competitive Section 3-AAA.
“We're in with North Allegheny, Pine Richland and Seneca Valley — three strong teams that we have a long history with,” Hastings said. “We've also got teams we've never played in Butler, North Hills and Shaler, so we've got some scouting to do.”
The Panthers are looking forward to defending their home turf at Nichols Field, whether or not they've got the numbers advantage.
“Some of my favorite memories over the years are taking on the biggest schools,” Hastings said. “Our 20 guys against their 50; that's kinda fun, and it makes us better.”
David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.