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Sewickley Academy boys lacrosse gears up for big week after win

| Monday, April 25, 2016, 9:30 p.m.

Sewickley Academy is facing an uphill battle toward the WPIAL boys lacrosse playoffs, but it ended last week moving in the right direction.

The Panthers wrapped up the week Friday with an 11-8 nonsection win over Moon, giving Sewickley Academy a good rebound after a tough 7-6 loss — its third one-goal loss of the season — to Upper St. Clair the day before in Division I, Section 1 play.

The split week leaves the Panthers at 3-6 (0-2) and in need of some section wins to make a push for the playoffs.

“We have three one-goal losses, but we're trending in the right direction,” Sewickley Academy coach Tim Hastings said. “After the win against Moon, we feel a lot better.”

Both section games for SA have been decided by one goal — the other was an 11-10 overtime loss to Mt. Lebanon on April 13 — but Hastings said his team has dealt well with adversity.

All-WPIAL goalie Jackson O'Neill missed time with a broken arm, which forced freshman Josh Thomas into action. Thomas performed well after being thrust into action, but with the return of O'Neill, the team again has its veteran leader directing traffic in the defensive third of the field.

“When you lose a senior captain, things get a little disjointed and you don't quite have the same control,” Hastings said. “Josh Thomas, he did a great job. We planned to bring him along slowly and let him get playing time in the JV games, but bam, suddenly he's a starter. He got a lot of valuable time and played well for us.”

The team faced more adversity in the Upper St. Clair game, when a lightning delay halted action with Sewickley Academy holding a 6-1 lead. USC came roaring back after the delay, but that let-down didn't carry over to the next game.

Behind four goals from Neill Peirce, Sewickley Academy took down a Moon team that entered the game with a 6-2 record and is contending for a Division II playoff spot. Ryder MacDougall and Ben Mulholland had two goals and two assists each in the win, and Riley Larsen also added two goals.

“We played a good Moon team. A lot of their boys played youth ball with ours, and after the loss (to Upper St. Clair), you never know how the kids are going to respond the next day,” Hastings said. “The players came out bound and determined to correct the mistakes from the day before.”

Mulholland, who also had two goals in the USC loss, leads the Panthers with 19 goals and 11 assists. Larsen has 17 goals, Peirce has 15 and MacDougall has 10 goals and 10 assists on the season.

The team's next shot at a section foe is it next game Thursday at Peters Township. That kicks off a difficult stretch for the Panthers with four road games in seven days. Nonsection tilts Saturday at Kiski School and Monday at North Allegheny come next, and another section game, at Bethel Park, wraps up the heavy workload for SA.

“Our players have been doing things right, but we weren't getting the reward at the end,” Hastings said. “It was good to work hard (against Moon) and get the result, and that sets us up for this week.”

Matt Grubba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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