North/West Xtra: Sewickley seniors enjoying the ride

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A 13-person senior class is large for a boys soccer team and for a Class A boys soccer team it is almost unheard of.

Well that's usually the case unless the program in question is Sewickley Academy. The Panthers feature a baker's dozen seniors on their roster.

The experience, talent and leadership brought by the 13 seniors was a major reason for the success Sewickley Academy has enjoyed this season.

The Panthers won the Class A Section 5 title, finished the regular season 14-3, received the No. 1 seed in the WPIAL playoffs and captured the WPIAL Class A title.

Sewickley advanced to the PIAA playoffs and defeated District 6 champion Bishop McCort, 5-1, and District 10 champion Mercyhurst Prep, 2-1. The Panthers (20-3) defeated North Star, 5-0, in the PIAA Class A semifinals Tuesday.

The deep playoff run is nothing new to this senior class. The PIAA semifinal meeting with North Star was the 22nd postseason game played by this senior class.

As sophomores they reached the WPIAL and PIAA semifinals.

As juniors they reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA championship game.

As seniors they won the WPIAL championship and reached the PIAA championship.

"These guys stayed together," coach Jim Boone said. "Most of them have played together since the seventh grade. We are lucky enough that they have stayed at Sewickley, I think that shows what kind of school we have, not just athletically but also academically. They are a tight-knit group. Thirteen kids in one class is a lot for Single-A."

It was a trio of seniors stepping up with goals in the WPIAL championship game, a 3-0 win against Beaver County Christian.

Senior defender Jack Matten scored the opening goal on a rebound off a free kick from senior midfielder Steve Munn. Senior forward Anthony Stinson added an insurance goal.

In the state playoffs, senior midfielder Connor Zierden scored two goals in that 5-1 win against Bishop McCort and Munn scored a goal in the 2-1 win against Mercyhurst Prep.

"They have been here before," Boone said. "With the experience they have, I feel comfortable with how they go into games and how they play the game."

The senior captains are Munn, senior forward J.P. Bowell, Matten and defender Keegan MacDougall.

"I think [the senior leaders] went beyond what we expected," Boone said. "I think that is a great sign that these guys took on a responsibility to help, help their peers and helping out the younger players."

Those younger players rose to the occasion as well. Sophomore defender Matt Teitelbaum scored in the 2-1 PIAA quarterfinal win. Sophomore goalie Jackson O'Neill played one of his strongest games on the biggest stage, in the WPIAL Class A final at Highmark Stadium.

As close as the seniors had come to championships in their first three years, a sense of urgency began to build this season, their last, to finally bring home a WPIAL title.

"After last year, we won our section but we were disappointed in WPIALs and states," Boone said. "Every team that loses goes through that, but this group had that hunger and that belief that we can do this if we just work hard, listen to coaches and do our best every time we go out."

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