Senior class leads Sewickley Academy boys soccer to another strong season

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Sunday, November 22, 2020 | 11:01 AM


The Sewickley Academy boys soccer team was on the brink of a berth into the WPIAL Class A championship for the first time since winning it all in 2016.

The Panthers ran into No. 2 seed Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL Class A semifinals and took the defending PIAA Class A runner-up into overtime before falling 2-1 in a highly competitive match.

“To be fair, we were very good during that matchup,” Sewickley Academy coach Nate Richter said. “We had the ball for a large chunk of time and pinned them back a lot, but they are a very good team, though, and it’s tough to hold a team of that caliber down for that long.”

Although it ended earlier than the Panthers would’ve liked, it was a season to be proud of. They finished with a regular season record of 10-2-1 and earned the No. 6 seed in the WPIAL playoffs with only two real blemishes on their schedule, both of which came against No. 3 seed Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, one loss and one tie.

The Panthers did get revenge on OLSH, and their victory, a 1-0 decision in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL playoffs, may have meant a little more as it allowed them to keep their season alive.

“That is a great group of kids and coaches over there, but any time you have that section-versus-section rivalry, it adds a little more juice to the game,” Richter said. “So our kids were excited to play them because it was the only blip on our schedule. It was super gratifying to come out with a victory in the quarterfinal, and it was a huge victory for not only the team but the community as well to get back into a semifinal.”

After an impressive season, the Panthers will now have to find a way to replace a class of eight seniors, seven of whom started for Richter on a consistent basis.

Those seniors did more than provide the team with a core group of skillful players. The class of 2020 led the Panthers when the status of the season was unknown. They organized practices in the offseason, held their teammates accountable and made sure the team was ready to compete when the lights turned on.

“I can’t reiterate how huge our seniors were and how impactful they were, not just on the field, where their play obviously speaks for itself, but off the field as well,” Richter said. “They kept things organized when coaches weren’t allowed to be present. They kept classmates accountable for their actions so we never had any incidents.”

Sewickley Academy is normally a successful boys soccer program, and senior classes leaving a positive impact is normally a sign of everlasting success. The 2020 class was just another example of that, and Richter believes their impact will still be felt a few years from now.

“You always try to build upon the season prior, and we had some young kids get some vital experience and play some important minutes, and that’s something they can always look back on, their growth and development,” Richter said. “The senior class of this year did that when they were freshmen, and that’s super important for the development process of the team.”

Now, moving forward, with another solid season under their belt, the Panthers are looking to build even further as they look to 2021.

“I think any coach hopes that it would motivate his players and it will drive them on,” Richter said. “Being so close with going to overtime and losing by one, or one second so to speak, hopefully it drives the underclassmen on to work hard in the offseason and gets them geared up and energized to take another crack at it.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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