Moravian Academy dethrones defending champ Sewickley Academy in final
HERSHEY — Sewickley Academy’s boys soccer team rode a senior-loaded lineup to a state title one season ago.
Back in the PIAA Class A championship game Friday with youthful bunch, the Panthers crossed paths with an opponent reminiscent of their predecessors.
District 11 champion Moravian Academy, in its first PIAA finals appearance, rolled to a 4-0 win over Sewickley Academy (19-3-2) with a roster that included 12 seniors. The Panthers, with just one senior on their roster (defender Tom Mulholland), never found a way to slow the Lions’ considerable firepower.
“We lost nine starters (from last season), and to replace that, it’s a tough feat, but these guys really stepped it up this year and worked really hard to get where they are,” SA coach James Boone said.
“Just the experience of these guys getting on a stage like today speaks volumes. (Moravian) is the kind of team we’re going to go against in the state finals. … Now the players understand this is what we need (them) to do to be a state champion, and not just be at what we call ‘The Big Dance.’ ”
Moravian Academy’s ability to attack en masse led to two first-half goals.
Lions senior Jeff Brown sneaked by the backside of Sewickley’s defense and tapped in a low cross from senior Ryan Peslis to put Moravian ahead with 18 minutes left in the opening frame.
Junior Nic Lozano put the Lions up 2-0 when he headed a rebound from inside Sewickley’s 6-yard box. A 30-yard free kick by senior Andrew Myers created the scoring opportunity, as his blast hit Panthers junior goalkeeper Jackson O’Neill in the arms and then bounced to Lozano.
The Panthers placed three shots on goal through 40 minutes, but senior goalkeeper Marshall Merwine-Hanyon stared down each and hung on to the ball.
“I knew what Sewickley was bringing, and it’s really tough to go from what they did last year to a repeat,” Lions coach Bob Hartman said. “I was not confident, but I was optimistically hopeful that they’d be down compared to last year.”
Moravian (22-3) continued to thrive inside Sewickley’s 18 in the second half. Senior Jack McCambridge leapt to head a corner kick directly to Peslis, who volleyed the ball into the back of the net for a 3-0 Lions lead.
Six minutes later, Lions junior Phil Astolfi blasted a 20-yard free kick low to the back corner of Sewickley Academy’s net.
“Obviously I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, and it just felt like we weren’t there tonight,” said O’Neill, Sewickley’s goalkeeper and one of the two multi-year starters. “It was totally different this time. … Being captains, me, (junior) Matt (Teitelbaum) and Tom (Mulholland) really had to step up and lead these guys in the right direction, and I felt like we did that this year. We just didn’t get that last step.”