Sewickley Academy girls in position for WPIAL title run

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Thanks to a strong defense, the Sewickley Academy girls soccer team is off to its best start since 2004, when it last won the WPIAL title.

Since allowing a goal in their section opener, the Panthers (13-0-1 overall, 12-0 in WPIAL Section 1-A) have held opponents to just one score, which came in a 3-1 win over Bishop Canevin on Saturday. They clinched the section title and a berth in the WPIAL playoffs by shutting out Neshannock and Quigley Catholic last week.

In a nonsection game Sept. 7, Sewickley Academy played Quaker Valley to a scoreless tie. Since then, 12 straight victories.

“I knew I had a good squad, with a lot of returning starters,” said Jessica Peluso, the head coach since 2004. “But we're doing even better than expected.

“At this point, this is the best we've done since I took over.”

In her first year on the team, Amy Kolor has been a key to Sewickley Academy's success. A senior sweeper, she joined the Panthers after transferring from Seneca Valley, where she was on the WPIAL Class AAA championship team in 2009.

“Amy is a big reason we're doing so well,” Peluso said. “She's a fantastic defender and field general with great communication skills.”

Senior center midfielder Sarah Rooney agreed Kolor has made the team stronger.

“She's good in pointing things out,” Rooney said. “You feel confident knowing she's in back.”

Kolor downplayed her role.

“Sometimes, at my position, I'm not always active,” she said. “It gets kind of boring. Rather than doing nothing, I'll help my teammates. I have the advantage of seeing the whole field, where they don't.”

Junior Maggie Dewitt has been a standout at goalie.

Sewickley Academy also has done well offensively, with 12 different players scoring goals.

Junior forward Melina George leads the team with 10 goals and eight assists. Rooney, junior forward Sophia Werner and sophomore midfielder Molly Lennen, a transfer from Mars, have five goals and three assists each.

Freshman forward Mackenzie Coles also has five goals. Junior center midfielder Ali Torrence has scored two.

Seniors Camdin Bartholomew and Sarah Straka and juniors Paige Simakas and Katelyn Ripple have received playing time as well.

With only a few regular-season games remaining, the Panthers are looking forward to the WPIAL playoffs.

“But we can't get too complacent,” Kolor said. “We have to stay on top of our game if we want momentum going into the playoffs.”

After winning the section title, the Panthers were eliminated in the WPIAL quarterfinals by Springdale a year ago.

Since 1999, Sewickley Academy has won four WPIAL titles. From 2002 to 2004, it was three-time Class AA champion.

Sewickley Academy was WPIAL Class A runner-up to Shady Side Academy in 2010, when it also was PIAA runner-up.

A three-time state finalist, Sewickley Academy was PIAA champion in 2003.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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