In 2011, the Sewickley Academy boys soccer team was just one game away from playing for WPIAL and PIAA Class A championships.
But both times, the Panthers fell in the semifinals. Those defeats have motivated the team this year.
"I think they are hungry to go further this season," Sewickley coach Jim Boone said. "They know what it takes to get there."
Boone was an assistant coach on the team last year and was the head coach of the Sewickley Middle School team. But when Uwe Stender stepped down as coach in the offseason, Boone stepped into the varsity's head coaching role and the team hasn't missed a beat.
The Panthers were 15-0-1 through their first 16 games (they were scheduled to play a non-section match against Beaver Wednesday night), with the only non-victory a 0-0 tie against Quaker Valley on Oct. 10. Sewickley had outscored its opponents this season, 58-3, before Wednesday.
Included in the 15 wins was a 3-1 triumph against Seton-LaSalle, who beat Sewickley, 1-0, in the WPIAL Class A semifinals last season.
"It was a very big win," Boone said. "Psychologically, it showed our players, 'Hey, we can do that. We just went out and beat the WPIAL champions.'"
Many of the same players who were on the field in the WPIAL semifinal loss are back this season. The Panthers returned eight starters from last season's team, including four-year starter Max Proie at sweeper. Proie is one of four senior returning starters who share the captaincy, the other three being defender Rob Nogay, goalkeeper Hayden Moyer and midfielder Jake Mulholland.
The other four returning starters are juniors, led by J.P. Bowell. Bowell, a striker, leads the team in goals and also has 10 assists.
"He started as a freshman," Boone said. "He's fast and he just always seems to be in the right place at the right time. His skills are very good and he's also a team player."
Although the majority of the players seeing time playing time for Sewickley are upperclassmen, the Panthers have also benefitted from the play of some talented freshmen.
Midfielders Ryder MacDougall and Geoffrey Schuchardt and forward Matt Teitelbaum all played for Boone last year on the undefeated middle school squad and have added to the team's depth.
"They have helped tremendously," Boone said. "They are all about winning. They came in here and all they wanted to do was win. They've been successful before and know what it takes."
Sewickley is now looking ahead to the WPIAL tournament, where it will in all probability be the top seed in the Class A field.
"Hopefully, we'll be there in the end and win a championship," Boone said.
First Published October 18, 2012 4:00 AM