Sewickley Academy boys cap season as PIAA runners-up
The Sewickley Academy boys soccer team's season ended in gut-wrenching fashion.
Mountain View's Austin Mack scored a goal in the 52nd minute, and the Eagles' defense held the Panthers off the scoreboard in a 1-0 victory in the PIAA championship game Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium.
“Their coach did a nice job in the defensive manner (with) the way he set up his team,” Sewickley Academy coach James Boone said. “They were strong from defense to midfield to up top. Our team played very well. Obviously, it was a 1-0 game, (and) it was unfortunate that it came up the wrong side. But I was very happy with both sides.”
To beat Sewickley Academy, Mountain View accomplished what just one other team had all season: shut the Panthers out.
Sewickley Academy (21-2-1) scored 81 goals in the first 23 games of the season, about 3.5 per game. The Panthers' only other scoreless outing came in a 0-0 tie Oct. 6 against Quaker Valley, and they entered the final coming off a 3-0 victory over Biglerville in the semifinals.
However, Mountain View shut down the Sewickley Academy attack by leaving five defenders back at all times and limiting the Panthers' space in the offensive zone.
“They played a strong defensive game,” Boone said. “Their players in the back were very good, (and) they're well-organized. They didn't have any mistakes, which in that kind of game you're hoping they make one or two mistakes so you can capitalize. But they didn't, and I give them a lot of credit.”
After Mack scored off a backdoor pass, the Eagles clamped down even further defensively, but the Panthers nearly got a tying goal. Mountain View keeper Bobby Pfahl robbed Sewickley Academy senior Jake Mulholland with about 11 minutes remaining, leaping to his left to snare Mulholland's shot headed for the upper right corner of the net.
That save proved to be the difference, as it proved to be the Panthers' best chance at tying the game.
“I was watching (the game) on DVR (Saturday), and if he doesn't make that save, it's a goal and it's 1-1,” Boone said. “That's going to change the complexion of that game, maybe give us some momentum that we needed. But the goalie made a great save, and I applaud him.”
Boone said the players were “crushed” to have come so far only to lose in the final game, but they recovered by the time the team returned home that night.
“It hurts, but they bounced back pretty good,” he said. “Take it in stride — we did everything we could do to win that game, and unfortunately we came up short.”
The Panthers will lose several seniors to graduation, including all four captains.
Boone, who became a coach at the same time those seniors entered high school, said it would be difficult to replace their leadership. But he expects the experienced junior class, led by such players as Stevie Munn, J.P. Bowell, Keegan MacDougal, Jack Matten and Anthony Stinson, to step up and fill that leadership role.
The coach also thinks Friday's loss will serve as motivation for the Panthers next season.
“They had it right in their fingertips, and unfortunately, we let it slip through them,” he said. “We're always looking for the three goals. (First), win the section, which we did. (Second), WPIALs slipped through our fingers, too; that'll be a motivating factor of getting back to the WPIAL championship game. And obviously (third) is the state.
“I think that will definitely motivate the team to at least repeat (as section champs) and hopefully get farther and win a couple of championships.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.