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Sewickley Academy field hockey looking to dupicate 2012 success

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy field hockey coach Cheryl Lassen talks to players during practice Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, at Frick Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy's Olivia Henry and Raj Thimmiah fight for the ball during field hockey practice Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, at Frick Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale waits for a pass during field hockey practice Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, at Frick Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy's Maddy Casale participates in field hockey practice Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, at Frick Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Sewickley Academy's Olivia Henry (right) defends against Caroline Breves during practice Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, at Frick Field in Edgeworth.

If someone would have told Sewickley Academy field hockey coach Cheryl Ann Lassen her inexperienced 2012 squad would reach the WPIAL Class AA title game last year and play into overtime, she would of thought it was a joke.

But that is what the Panthers did. After beating the Ellis School, 2-1, in overtime in the semifinals, Sewickley Academy finished a goal shy of upsetting Shady Side Academy in the championship.

“I would of laughed in your face and said ‘no way' if you told me that was going to happen at the beginning of the season,” the 20-year veteran coach said.

“But I watched the players develop and become a team. It was an awesome experience to watch.”

Lassen is hoping to find the same magic this season.

The 2013 team will be without seven players from last season's squad — four graduated, one will be studying this fall in Switzerland, another jumped to cross country and a foreign exchange student returned home.

The Panthers have nine players — including four freshmen — practicing, two shy of what is needed to field a team. Due to the lack of a youth program, the squad has struggled to maintain numbers on a yearly basis.

“It is becoming more and more difficult because they don't have an opportunity to experience the sport,” Lassen said. “The exposure is not there like soccer, and other sports athletes have been playing since they were 3 years old.

“The last seven years, we have had to battle to get numbers.”

Lassen said she has approached a number of players who are considering to join the team.

The Panthers have five returning players. Senior goalie Sarah Duplaga is a second-year player whom Lassen has praised for her development.

Juniors Caroline Breves, Olivia Henry and Janelle Sands return. Sophomore Maddy Casale had three goals in 2012 and will take a step forward in her progression.

“We are looking at all five returning players as leaders,” Lassen said. “Not just our senior or juniors.”

While the team will use the start of the season to gain experience, Lassen hopes the squad can find similar success to the 2012 team.

“We will have challenges in the beginning, but we should be able to progress,” Lassen said. “The ultimate goal is to have a winning season.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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