Defending state champ Sewickley Academy returns to PIAA boys soccer finals
Sensing a case of déjà vu, Sewickley boys soccer coach James Boone began putting together a shootout lineup in his head Tuesday night during the second overtime period of the Panthers’ PIAA Class A semifinal against Winchester Thurston.
Winchester Thurston dethroned Sewickley Academy as the WPIAL champ with a shootout victory Nov. 1, and Boone worried the Bears might end the Panthers’ reign as defending state champs, too, if the rematch came down to another round of penalty kicks.
While Boone pondered, his star scorer, junior forward Matt Teitelbaum, put the game away.
A goal by Teitelbaum in the final two minutes of the second overtime period propelled the WPIAL runner-up Panthers to a 3-2 win over Winchester Thurston (21-1-1) and secured the team’s third straight appearance in the state finals.
Sewickley Academy (19-2-2) will meet District 11 champion Moravian Academy in the PIAA championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.
Teitelbaum, whose shot was saved to end the shootout in the WPIAL finals, received a through ball deep in Winchester Thurston’s end and popped it over senior goalkeeper Mathieu Lebiere for the winner and his second goal of the night.
“I felt I owed it after blowing the title game in the WPIAL,” Teitelbaum said. “We definitely did not want to go to PKs again.”
Unlike their WPIAL finals clash, which remained scoreless through regulation and overtime, Sewickley Academy and Winchester Thurston each scored without resorting to penalty kicks. But the even-matched nature of the rivalry remained. The Bears proved that in the final 20 minutes of regulation as they came back from a 2-0 deficit.
“They scored a goal on us early because we made a mistake, and we had to play uphill from there,” Bears coach Adam Brownold said. “We were trying to put it away in that first 15 minutes (of overtime). We did everything except put it in the net.”
Sewickley Academy made sure the rematch included offensive sparks from the start.
Teitelbaum streaked down the left side of the field and slipped inside the far post to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead with 37 minutes left in the first half.
Lebiere made a great save on Teitelbaum with 28 minutes left in the second half, as the senior keeper dove to his left to knock away a shot from about 14 yards out, but Panthers sophomore Justin Pryor arrived in time to handle the rebound and score on a wide-open net.
“I think that gave our team a lot of confidence, because Winchester hasn’t given up many goals this year,” Panthers coach James Boone said. “To get one on them, and then get another was fantastic.”
With less than 20 minutes left, Winchester Thurston’s offense woke up.
Senior Lucas Rosenblatt started the comeback, as his shot from 30 yards carried over the hands of Panthers junior goalkeeper Jackson O’Neill and into the net with 19 minutes to play.
Less than three minutes later, Tamir Frank tied the game when he poked in a loose rebound.
Lebiere, with help from fast-reacting defenders, denied two more close-range shots, including one from Teitelbaum, with about four minutes left in the first overtime period.
He finished with eight saves.
“As we’ve gone on to bigger stages, people have realized this kid should be an All-State goalie,” Brownold said. “I haven’t seen any goalie in high school soccer play better than him. This was a great celebration of his skill.”