Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy boys look forward to postseason
Sewickley Academy and Quaker Valley are among the favorites to challenge for WPIAL boys soccer championships.
Before the postseason began, though, the two squads met in a nonsection matchup that felt like a playoff contest. The Panthers scored late to beat the Quakers, 3-2.
“Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy have always been rivals, and it was nice playing a quality team. They are a well-coached team with great players who are very disciplined. I can't say enough about their program,” Sewickley Academy coach James Boone said. “It was a plus to get that test right before the playoffs, and it was nice to see how the guys responded in pressure situations.
“It was a quality win, and hopefully, it puts a little feather in our cap heading into the playoffs.”
Rees Blaylock put Sewickley Academy ahead 1-0 early into the match. Walter Hubsch tied it for Quaker Valley. Tommy Lasorda scored for the Panthers and Jon Wicker tied it 2-2. Mike Napoleone scored the game-winning goal late in the game.
“It's a great rivalry. The guys know each other, and there's a lot of emotion. It's always an exciting game,” Quaker Valley coach Andrew Marshall said. “On top of that, Sewickley Academy is a great team, and we knew it'd be a really good game for us to try continue our progression heading into the playoffs.”
Both squads enter the postseason as section champions and among the top-seeded teams in their classifications.
Sewickley Academy (13-4), the defending PIAA Class A champ, hopes to get back to the state title match for the fifth year in a row. The Panthers want to add WPIAL gold to their resume after falling to Avonworth in the semifinals last year.
“Hopefully, we get some bounces our way. Getting back to the state finals two years in a row is tough. Getting there a fifth year in a row is unheard of,” Boone said. “If our guys stay focused and play to the best of their ability, I think we have a chance to make some noise in the WPIAL and state playoffs. There are some good teams out there. We just hope we can bring our best game against anybody we play in the playoffs.”
Quaker Valley (12-4-1), which lost in the WPIAL first round a year ago, wants to make a run at a Class AA title.
“Our group is very grounded. The boys approach each day and training session one at a time. They just focus on their roles and responsibilities,” Marshall said. “I am very proud of the boys. I think they have had a fantastic season so far. There is definitely a lot of confidence with the way we're playing. They seemed to really have congealed as a group. I am excited to see what they can do as we get into the postseason.”
Depth is a key factor for both squads. The Panthers are steady throughout their lineup and are not afraid to call upon younger players to have key roles. Seniors Ian Deihle, Lasorda and Napoleone lead the way.
“The younger guys have stepped it up this year, too. I try to play as many guys as I can, especially young guys to build for the future and not just for this year,” Boone said. “I have been happy with how we've progressed. It's nice to have that distribution of goal scorers. You don't have to count on one person. Hopefully, that gives teams some headaches.”
Likewise, the Quakers can count on many players to help in different situations.
“They've been very strong adapting as a group. I think versatility is a good strength of ours. Add in a ton of depth and players who can step in at multiple roles and positions, and that's a big strength for us, as well,” Marshall said. “When we're clicking and really efficient in our attack, I think we possess a lot of options to score goals.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.