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Sewickley Academy field hockey sets sights on postseason

| Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, 12:36 p.m.
Sewickley Academy's Ella Balet competes in an early-season field hockey match.
Sewickley Academy's Ella Balet competes in an early-season field hockey match.
Sewickley Academy field hockey coach Cheryl Lassen talks with her team before a game.
Sewickley Academy field hockey coach Cheryl Lassen talks with her team before a game.

After a one-year absence, the Sewickley Academy field hockey team (2-1) looks forward to returning to the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

The Panthers have many players back from a squad that was 6-6 and barely missed making the tournament last fall.

“We are excited this season and have been working hard during the offseason,” Panthers' coach Cheryl Ann Lassen said.

The Panthers lost leading scorer Maddy Casale (12 goals) but are experienced elsewhere.

Juniors Mikayla Mucci and Claire Meakem and senior Mia Krohn patrol the midfield.

Meakem is back after missing last season to study in Switzerland.

Senior Chandler White, a goalie, and seniors Connor Garvey, Katie Malus and Priya Rajawat are defenders.

The Panthers have many promising newcomers.

Of 19 players, nine are freshmen, all with playing experience.

“There are so many strong players,” said Rajawat, 16, of the Treesdale residential community in Adams, Butler County. “The forwards, despite the fact the position is largely dominated by freshmen, are great at taking the ball down and making connections to post.

“The midfielders, many of whom are well seasoned, just keep running and dodging and really just going at the ball with great success. (The) defense is full of strong players, as well, and since we have worked together for three years now, I find that our defensive angles are much better, as well as our recovery and overall flow.”

Meakem, 16, of Sewickley said the team needs to jell quickly.

The Panthers opened section play with a 3-1 loss to Winchester Thurston last week. They beat Hempfield and Oakland Catholic in nonsection play earlier.

“Because of the large number of freshmen, our team aims to learn each other's strengths and use them to our advantage,” Meakem said.

Malus, 17, of Sewickley and Rajawat hope to reach the playoffs while having fun in their final season.

“I love this sport,” Malus said. “As captain, I want to make a positive contribution.”

“I just want to give my all and stop sometimes to smile and enjoy, and take it all in,” Rajawat said.

The Panthers lost their first game in their last WPIAL playoff appearance, in 2014. They were WPIAL runner-up in 2012 and WPIAL champions in '01 and '04.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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