Sewickley Academy still has work to be done
From forever finished at the final four to finally in the final.
For the fourth consecutive postseason tournament, the Sewickley Academy boys soccer team advanced to the semifinals. For the first time over that span, the Panthers got through to a championship game.
After losing in the WPIAL and PIAA Class A semifinals last season and being eliminated in this season's WPIAL semifinal as well, Sewickley Academy got past the semifinals in the PIAA tournament earlier this week.
The Panthers beat Biglerville, 3-0, on Tuesday to advance to their fourth PIAA championship game. Sewickley Academy (21-1-1) plays District 2 champion Mountain View at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.
“They got really close to the state final last year but just couldn't get over that little hump there in the semifinals,” Panthers coach James Boone said. “But I think the experience of being there before helped us.
“We have players who are really excited to go to Hershey and hopefully bring a title back to the western part of the state.”
The run to the PIAA title game is helping Sewickley Academy maintain its first place spot in the Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award Class A standings.
Sewickley Academy has allowed only six goals in 23 games this season, including only four goals against in its 21 victories.
The Panthers have beaten two district champions in the PIAA playoffs, a Class AAA team (Moon) and what was, at the time, the reigning WPIAL Class A champion (Seton-La Salle) during the regular season.
With a roster that included eight returning starters from the WPIAL and PIAA semifinalist team of a year ago, Sewickley Academy always has had every reason to believe it had the capability to make it this far.
“We're a confident team,” said senior defender Max Proie, a team co-captain. “We're not overconfident, we're not cocky, but we know what our skill level is, we know how to play, and we know how we stack up against other teams.”
Sewickley Academy, which has won PIAA titles in 1997 and 2007, starts four seniors: Proie, defender Rob Nogay, goalie Hayden Moyer and forward/midfielder Jake Mullholland.
The junior class is just as strong, featuring forwards J.P. Bowell and Anthony Stinson, midfielder Steve Munn and defender Jack Matten.
Bowell has 28 goals.
“He's not the biggest guy on the field, but I tell you what, he's very tough to knock off the ball,” Boone said. “He has good athleticism, and he's been around the sport all his life, so that experience helps. He's been starting since his freshman year, so he knows what it takes to win. His knowledge of the game is very, very good. He sees things other kids don't see, and that's what makes him stand out on the soccer field.”
Still, Bowell's finishing ability would go to waste without skilled set-up men. Sewickley Academy has that all over the field, even among its younger players, Boone said. The Panthers' three new starters this season were freshmen.
“Our whole team, top to bottom, has been very good,” Boone said. “We're very happy with where our players are.”