Sewickley Academy girls lacrosse caps storybook season in PIAA semifinals

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Sunday, June 13, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Sewickley Academy girls lacrosse team had its storybook-type season come to an end June 8 in the semifinals of the PIAA Class 3A tournament, but this year was nothing short of spectacular for the Panthers.

They produced a record of 17-3, took third place in the WPIAL after losing to eventual runner-up Mt. Lebanon in the semifinals, then put together a special run in the state playoffs with a 19-17 win over Wilson West Lawn and an 18-17 revenge win over Mt. Lebanon in the quarterfinals.

Shady Side Academy, Mt. Lebanon and Sewickley Academy also made history when they became the first three WPIAL teams to advance past the first round of the state tournament in the same year.

For a roster that included 10 seniors, coach Chelsea Cameron said they had high expectations for themselves and everything just came together.

“I think we always knew that this would be a special season,” Cameron said. “This is a group that has been playing together since they were in lower school, and it has been part of their journey together through summer ball and through team play with the school. So we knew this was going to be a special year for them, and it was a great opportunity for them to pull everything together and see what they could do.”

The Panthers definitely put on a show.

With their wins over Wilson West Lawn and Mt. Lebanon, the Panthers placed themselves in the PIAA record book. Their 36 combined goals with Wilson are tied for the third-most all-time in a state playoff game and their 35 combined goals with Mt. Lebanon are tied for fourth.

In a 2011 quarterfinal matchup with Penn Manor, Sewickley Academy also combined to score 38 goals for the most all-time in a state playoff game.

Sewickley Academy’s special run through the state playoffs was motivated by their run through the WPIAL tournament.

After a 20-7 win over Bethel Park in the quarterfinals, Sewickley Academy suffered a loss to Mt. Lebanon after a slow start that allowed the Blue Devils to jump out to an early lead. Although the Panthers were able to bounce back in the second half and actually outscore Mt. Lebanon they couldn’t rally all the way back.

“We all kind of walked away from that and we knew that we needed to come away faster than that and come out better,” Cameron said.

From there, the Panthers turned it up a notch as they earned a 17-5 victory over Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL third-place match to punch their ticket to the state playoffs.

District 3 champion Wilson West Lawn put up a fight, but the Panthers were able to battle through and pull off the upset to set up their rematch Mt. Lebanon.

“We had this unbelievable season and we had only lost one game all season long, which came against a really talented team in Shady Side Academy,” Cameron said about the team’s motivation after their semifinal loss. “So, we really just wanted to come out and play our best lacrosse. I told them to just come out and focus on the things that we can control and the things that we do and our game plan going into Upper St. Clair was just that.”

Against Mt. Lebanon, the Panthers only led for four seconds, but they were the only four seconds that mattered. With the game tied, Elizabeth Zack picked up a turnover in the defensive end and made a full out sprint to Sewickley Academy’s offensive zone, dodging defenders as she went.

Rather than call a timeout, Cameron let her players go. She had instilled freedom into them all season that supported creativity. They were also a group of players who have played together since they were little, and it all showed in their game-winning goal.

Emma DiSantis dropped a pass to Elsa Gordon who whipped a shot into the back of the net to secure the victory.

“That was just a product of something that they had been working on in terms of chemistry all season long,” Cameron said. “It was just a really great game sense for Emma to kind of see the draw and dump opportunity and she put it right on Elsa’s stick and she had a wonderful placement shot that sealed the deal.”

“That is a moment that will live in Sewickley Academy athletics history.”

The Panthers dropped an 18-8 decision in their PIAA semifinal match against Manheim Township, which made a third straight PIAA championship appearance, but it didn’t take away from the special season the Panthers had.

“It was just incredible and we’re hoping that these opportunities come more frequently for not only our program but for other Western Pennsylvania programs,” Cameron said. “We’re getting better as a community every day, and I know coaches in this area, we’re all kind of working together to build up lacrosse and be the best it can be in Western Pennsylvania, so we can compete at the highest levels.”

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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