Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley boys soccer to play for WPIAL titles
The Sewickley Academy and Quaker Valley boys soccer teams are headed to Highmark Stadium.
Both squads advanced to the WPIAL championships with quarterfinal and semifinal victories. The Panthers (17-4-0) beat Bentworth, 1-0, and Freedom, 3-1, to reach the Class A title match. The Quakers (16-4-1) topped section rivals Central Valley, 3-1, and Beaver, 3-2, to advance to the Class AA championship.
Sewickley Academy built on its 3-2 overtime win over Serra Catholic in the first round with a 1-0 decision over Bentworth in the quarterfinals. Mike Napoleone scored the lone goal in that battle.
In the semifinals, the Panthers faced Section 1 rival Freedom and produced a third win over the Bulldogs, 3-1. Alex Gordon, Tommy Lasorda and Napoleone all had goals in that victory.
“Every team that is in the playoffs is a quality team. If you get a chance to score and get that first goal, it puts pressure on the other team,” Sewickley Academy coach James Boone said. “If we get opportunities, we have to make sure to put it in the back of the net.”
Sewickley Academy meets Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic for the WPIAL championship. Both advance to the PIAA tournament. The Panthers, the defending PIAA champs, have been to the PIAA final the past four years. They are looking for their first WPIAL title since 2013. For the Trojans, it's their first time in the playoffs in at least two decades.
“For North Catholic to be in the finals is fantastic for them since they haven't been in the playoffs in a long time,” Boone said. “We hope our experience helps us. We have nine seniors, and that senior leadership has really come through and helped out the younger players who haven't been on a stage as big as this. Hopefully, the guys who have played in big games for us over the past few years will lead the way and, hopefully, help us get a good result. If we play the way we're capable of playing, that'll give us a good chance to win.”
Quaker Valley, which beat East Allegheny, 5-1, to open the playoffs, had to go through two Section 4 rivals to get to the championship. The Quakers beat Central Valley, 3-1, in the quarterfinals. Ian Rodgers had two goals, and Frankie Fernandez had the other. In the semifinals, Quaker Valley edged Beaver, 3-2. Rodgers scored twice and Owen Harkins added the decisive goal.
“To get that third win against a team is tough, and both teams are fantastic teams,” Quaker Valley assistant coach J.J. Veshio said. “To have all four playoffs teams from our section on the same side of the bracket and meet in the quarterfinals is a credit to how difficult our section is.”
The Quakers had to overcome a 2-1 second-half deficit to defeat Beaver.
“That was something we're not used to. We just settled down and came back, though,” Veshio said. “The focus the last week or two has been really, really good.”
Quaker Valley meets Shady Side Academy (14-2-1) for the championship. Both advance to the PIAA tournament.
“With 10 of our 11 starters back and a good crop of freshmen, reaching the WPIAL finals was our expectation this year,” Veshio said. “The boys are really excited. We're doing what we thought we could do.
“We just need to execute. Offensively, we have to make sure we're sound and playing smart defensively. We have confidence we can come out of there with a win based on what we've done throughout the season and knowing the potential of our boys.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.