Sewickley Academy thrives in pressure-packed playoffs to win WPIAL team golf title

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Sunday, October 23, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Sewickley Academy’s boys golf team captured its 12th WPIAL title since 2006 in a thrilling sudden-death playoff with Belle Vernon.

The district championship was the third won by the SA seniors.

“It was an awesome day,” senior Joey Mucci said. “By far, it is my favorite WPIAL championship out of the three I won. We’ve worked so hard all season and understood we weren’t the favorites entering the day, but we all knew and trusted we could win.

“When we learned we were going into a playoff, it hit me that it was actually the first playoff I have participated in, and I have played in a bunch of tournaments. I knew nerves were going to be high and that I just needed to let everything swing freely. I was able to hit one of my hardest and furthest drives of the day on the playoff hole.”

Sewickley and BV tied for the top spot at the Class 2A championship match held at Cedarbrook’s Gold Course. Both squads finished with 411 team scores, followed closely by SA rival Quaker Valley with a total of 412.

The Panthers won the title on the first playoff hole, the par-5, 554-yard 10th.

Mucci and SA senior Nick Straka made pars in the first group. In the second group, SA sophomore Karan Kad ended up in a greenside bunker while sophomore Severin Harmon hit the green.

Kad was able to get up and down for a par while Harmon bogeyed.

Meanwhile, both Belle Vernon golfers bogeyed the hole, which clinched the championship for Sewickley.

“It was definitely the best feeling victory for my career just because we knew people didn’t believe in us to win,” Mucci said, “and getting it done in a playoff was even more special.”

The Panthers added to their impressive array of golf awards in their trophy case. Sewickley won three WPIAL crowns from 2006-08 and for eight consecutive years from 2013-20.

Straka and Harmon tied for low score for SA, both with rounds of 80 on the 6,413-yard course at Cedarbrook. Mucci was next with an 82 followed by senior Leon Jiao (83) and Kad (86).

“The team battled hard all day long,” Harmon said, “and we made some really clutch putts down the stretch. Everyone played a huge part, and it was definitely a team effort.

“In the playoff hole, Karan had a great up and down for par for the win. It was a very special moment for all of us.”

Straka carded two birdies and eight pars prior to the playoff hole. Harmon parred six of his first seven holes then added one birdie and five pars on the back nine.

Mucci finished with eight pars, Kad had one birdie and six pars, and Jiao ended up with one birdie and seven pars.

“Winning the championship was our goal going into the season,” Straka said. “It’s what we worked towards all season. Even though none of us got out to a great start, we all put our heads down and saw it out to the end. This just shows how much our mental toughness has improved since the beginning of the season.”

Straka said the pressure was intense on the sudden-death playoff hole.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that playoff hole before, but I trusted that our three other guys would play well,” Straka said. ”Karan hit a great shot out of the bunker and made a tough slider to secure the par.

“I couldn’t be happier with our team’s performance, especially under the pressure of the playoff hole that our entire season was depending on.”

Belle Vernon was led by junior Rogan Maloney (75) and senior Patrick Bush (77), who were complemented by freshman Jordan Mocello (83), sophomore Seth Tomalski (86) and freshman Jack Edwards (90).

Quaker Valley finished in third place by the narrowest of margins.

The Quakers’ top five golfers consisted of senior Eva Bulger, a four-time WPIAL girls individual titlist who competes for the QV boys team, and sophomore Nolan Wagoner. Both shot rounds of 79.

Bulger and Wagoner were flanked by QV freshman Jonah Schollaert (82), sophomore Ethan Dai (83) and senior Adam Renner (89).

Derry and Mohawk rounded out the top five in the team scoring with 431 and 438 scores.

Since 2014, SA has advanced to the PIAA boys golf finals seven times and has won three championships (2015, 2017, 2019).

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