No rest for Sewickley Academy boys soccer after loss in WPIAL championship
Members of the Sewickley Academy boys soccer team didn’t have much time to process Saturday’s 1-0 shootout loss to Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL Class A championship. But with just two days between the loss and their first round PIAA playoff game Tuesday, time might not have helped anyway.
“We’re still dealing with 15-to-18 year old student athletes,” coach James Boone said before Tuesday’s matchup with District 10 champion North East. “It might be different on the collegiate or even pro level where they bounce back faster because it’s been there, done that. It might take a little bit longer to bounce back. The way to do that might be to start winning again.”
Before they could search for another win, the Panthers had to return to practice Monday, and the team responded well, senior defender Tom Mulholland said.
“I was hoping to see no bad spirits about the loss on Saturday, to just overcome it and move on,” senior defender Tom Mulholland said. “Because now that we’re in the state playoffs, it’s a whole new game.”
Winchester Thurston proved to be the toughest defense the Panthers have faced this season, as it was the only team to hold them scoreless.
The Bears’ formation gave a different look than the Panthers were used to seeing, which caused the defense to have some hesitation in starting the offensive transtition like it typically does, junior defender Ryder McDougall said.
Saturday was the first game this season the Panthers have played in truly cold weather, which also factored into the lack of offense.
“When we played that game, our bodies were still cold,” McDougall said. “We weren’t able to warm up and get used to the atmosphere. In the games coming, we’ll have to warm up as well as we can before the games.”
One of the challenges presented by the state playoffs is having to face unfamiliar opponents.
Boone’s ability to adjust his team’s formation and attack strategy based on its opponent was a big part of Sewickley Academy’s success this season, but the Panthers will have to stick to what they do best, O’Neill said.
“It’s really important to go about our game plan,” junior goalie Jackson O’Neill said. “Usually we’ve dominated the WPIAL for the most part when we score first and control the game. We’ve got to try to control the game, get up early and pound teams and make them want to not even be there.”
But jumping on teams in the state playoffs like the Panthers did during the regular season is a significantly harder task. Eleven of the 16 teams to reach the state playoffs were champions in their home districts.
“At states, we’re going to see teams of the same caliber as us in every round,” O’Neill said. “In the WPIAL, there’s usually one or two really strong players on a team, but in states, every team has five or six.”