Senior midfielder brings flair to Sewickley Academy boys soccer team

Sunday, November 6, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Sewickley Academy’s Lucas Mendonca knocked in the game-winning goal to lift the Panthers past Springdale in this year’s WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.

Sewickley edged Springdale, 4-3, Oct. 29 as Mendonca scored with about 15 minutes remaining in the game.

“It was an amazing feeling,” Mendonca said. “I have to credit Adin Zorn for always telling me to shoot the ball and believing that I will score.

“I was really happy to celebrate with the team and that we got to play in the semifinals. I’m glad that after a lot of effort by the whole team, I could help us move forward in the tournament.”

Mendonca, a senior midfielder, grew up in the United Kingdom and moved to the United States two years ago. He used to play rugby and volleyball and plans to compete for the QV baseball team in the spring.

“I grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived in Rio De Janeiro for two years,” Mendonca said. “My sophomore year, I moved to the United States and got involved with the soccer team as soon as I could. I used to play rugby and volleyball, but I stopped and just focused on soccer since coming to the United States.”

Sewickley Academy coach Alessandro Moreira said Mendonca has been a welcomed addition to the soccer program.

“Lucas is a senior this year,” Moreira said. “His strengths are passing and dribbling; he can control the ball very well. His family is from Brazil. He has a Brazilian style of play.”

Much like baseball is the national pastime in the United States, soccer enjoys a similar status in Brazil.

“To me, Brazilian soccer is all about having fun and doing the unexpected,” Mendonca said. “I think of it as putting on a show, making the game enjoyable to watch and even more enjoyable to play. I try to show this through my playing style, taking long shots, trying to do skills and dribbling past players. It makes me happy,”

“I have been playing soccer since I was able to walk. It means a lot to me because I played it during every stage of my life. I am very sad that this is my last season, but I’m glad that it was with this team. This group made this season the most enjoyable experience of my life.”

Sewickley finished in a tie with Eden Christian atop the Section 1-A standings this season. Both teams were 11-1 in section play.

The Panthers opened the year with 11 consecutive wins before losing a 3-1 thriller to rival Quaker Valley, then won three in a row before clashing with Eden Christian in their final regular-season game.

Sewickley has not had a losing season in boys soccer since 2010, has won two PIAA and two WPIAL titles since then, was a PIAA finalist five times and finished first or second in section play all 12 years with eight section crowns.

Both Sewickley Academy and Quaker Valley maintained first place in their respective sections all season, the Quakers in Section 4-2A and the Panthers in 1-A.

The Panthers (17-5) bowed out of the chase for a WPIAL championship with a 4-3 overtime loss to Winchester Thurston in the semifinals.

“I am really proud of the team. We are a small group, but everyone worked really hard to achieve what we did this season,” Mendonca said. “I think the team did really well even though we didn’t achieve what wanted to achieve. It was a lot of fun, and I am really proud of everyone on the team.”

Allan leads Quakers

Two days prior to Mendonca’s heroics, Nick Allan proved to be a virtual one-man show for the Quaker Valley boys soccer team.

The junior midfielder netted the game’s only goal with 17 minutes to go in the first half to lead the Quakers to a 1-0 victory over Avonworth in the WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinals.

Bennett Haas, a junior forward, assisted on the play, which carried QV into the semifinals.

“I am very pleased with both Bennett and Nick (this season),” QV coach J.J. Veschio said. “They have always been two outstanding players, but they really came into their own this season. Bennett has become an excellent playmaker and has built a wonderful level of confidence. Nick has provided that strong presence up front and has shown through his goal-scoring ability that he is a top player. Both of these things came together to help get the win against Avonworth.”

Allan led QV with two goals and two assists Oct. 24 as the Quakers rolled past No. 15 Freeport in the first round of the playoffs. Haas had a goal and an assist while junior midfielder Matteo Castellini, senior defender Ben Henry and freshman midfielder Sutton Hoehl also scored for the Quakers.

Quaker Valley’s championship chase ended with a 1-0 shootout loss to Beaver in the WPIAL semifinals. The Quakers rebounded to beat top-seeded South Park in the third-place match to earn a trip to the state tournament.

Quaker Valley began the 2022 season ranked No. 1 in Class 2A in the Trib HSSN soccer rankings.

A year ago, the Quakers won PIAA, WPIAL and Section 4-2A championships and finished with a 24-2 overall record.

QV won five of its first seven games this season, which included a 4-0 section slate. Four of the five early season wins were shutouts posted by senior goalkeeper Isaac Waller, who allowed only three goals through the first seven games.

“Isaac has certainly played a major role in our shutouts,” Veshio said, “as he is very experienced and a calm leader in goal. Our defense has also been excellent in limiting the number of shots he sees, so that’s also encouraging.”

QV’s starters on defense normally consist of seniors Colin Wood and Spencer Wiehe, junior Kiril Grin and sophomore Andrew Vescio.

Senior captain Ben Henry plays in the midfield with Allan, a team captain, and junior Matteo Castellini.

“We hope to continue to be a more cohesive team that is able to be more creative as the season goes along,” Veshio said. “We also continue to stress the little things that make us a good team and always strive to play the game in a respectable manner.”

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