WPIAL programs with hefty title tradition to face off in PIAA semifinals
Since 2000, two WPIAL schools have dominated boys soccer in Class A and have been regular contenders for the state title — Sewickley Academy and Seton-La Salle.
These two programs have combined for 13 WPIAL championships (Sewickley 7, Seton-La Salle 6) and four state titles (Sewickley 3, Seton 1) in that span.
Both familiar with deep postseason runs, they will meet in the PIAA semifinal at 8 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny after each advanced in Saturday's quarterfinals, to set up the first meeting between the two schools in the postseason since 2012.
“I know (Sewickley coach) Jim (Boone) pretty well, and we try to schedule at least one regular season game each year, but we have not met in the playoffs in my four years here,” Seton-La Salle coach Ryan Kelly said after his team's 1-0 win over Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic on Saturday. “This is the sixth time in four seasons I've been here we had a chance to meet in the playoffs. Each time one of us hasn't held up our end of the bargain.”
Seton-La Salle (21-2) avenged its WPIAL semifinal loss to North Catholic, as Darryl Daniels scored the game's lone goal with a left-footed finish inside the post in the 55th minute. The Rebels held on thanks to goalkeeper Jake Gigliotti, who turned away a number of quality chances.
“Gigs has been so good for us this year and has come up big when we have needed him,” Kelly said.
The current WPIAL and defending PIAA champion Panthers (20-4) remained unbeaten against Class A opponents after Ian Deihle slid a shot past the near post with two minutes left for the lone goal in Sewickley Academy's 1-0 win over District 5 champion Windber on Saturday.
It was the second game-winner for Deihle in the past few weeks, as he also scored the golden goal in overtime to beat North Catholic in the WPIAL finals at Highmark Stadium on Nov. 4.
“He has been one of our leading scorers all year,” Boone said.
The Panthers have been living dangerously since the playoffs began, winning four games that have been extended to extra time.
This will be the first meeting in the PIAA playoffs between the two sides since the 2007 semifinals, when Sewickley Academy won 4-3 en route its first PIAA soccer title in school history.
The Rebels, who are hoping to reach the PIAA final in Hershey for the first time since 2009, and win their first state title since 2008, bring a potent attacking unit that has scored nine goals in the playoffs, featuring two dangerous players in Daniels (41 goals) and Chris Stack, who the Panthers will have to try to shut down.
Sewickley Academy, an experienced team with nine seniors that won a state title a year ago, has found opportunistic goals late in games from Deihle and Mike Napoleone. The Panthers also rely on the strength of their back line and goalkeeper Derrick Littlefield, who has 11 shutouts this season.
“I told our seniors, this hasn't happened in our four years together,” Kelly said. “I know we are excited about doing our part to get here, and finally getting a chance to play them. It's going to be great matchup.”
Karen Kadilak contributed. John Krysinsky is a freelance writer.