Sewickley Academy senior midfielder Olivia Ahearn scored six goals including three in an 80-second burst of speed and sheer determination, but the second-half rally she inspired came up one goal short.
As a result, Sewickley Academy will enter the PIAA Girls Lacrosse Championships as the WPIAL’s Division I runner-up following a gutsy 12-11 loss to Seneca Valley Thursday night at North Hills High School’s Martorelli Stadium.
“We played with a lot of heart and a lot of passion, and we’re not letting it end this way,” Sewickley Academy coach Cheryl Ann Lassen said after presenting her team with the WPIAL Silver Medals.
“It was wonderful to see Olivia step up and take control,” the coach said. “She’s one of an amazing group of six seniors.”
Sewickley Academy (12-7) will play the winner of Saturday’s matchup between State College and Villa Maria in the opening round of the state tournament.
“We’re excited to go forward,” Lassen said. “This is the first time in our school’s history that we’ve been able to go to states. We now have new goals to achieve for the state tournament.
“It’s nice to see that they’re not quitting and saying ‘This is it.’ I’m looking forward to it and seeing what we can do,” she said.
Far from quitting, Sewickley Academy hit the accelerator after falling behind early against Seneca Valley.
Sewickley Academy senior Erin Keller and sophomore Alexis Bosilovi both scored twice, and junior Caroline Ross added a goal.
Ahearn scored her sixth and final goal with 3:58 remaining, and the Sewickley Academy defense held its ground, shutting out Seneca Valley for the final seven minutes and nine seconds of the game.
Lassen said it was fitting that Sewickley Academy’s six seniors finished their WPIAL careers in the championship game. The senior group includes Ahearn, Keller, defenders Liz Dietrich, Nicola Limbach and Reed Mango, and attacker Megan McGinley.
“With our seniors, everything is about the team, teamwork and support,” Lassen said. “They never put any blame on anyone else. They don’t say it’s my game. It’s our game. Everything is about the team.”
Seneca Valley senior attacker Sam Struss scored four goals and added two assists and used all of her senior experience in the closing seconds to help the Raiders possess the ball.
Seneca Valley (15-4) moved in front quickly, building a 5-1 lead as five different players scored in the opening five minutes.
“We have a lot of girls that contribute to our goal scoring, so that helped a lot tonight because we don’t have to rely on one person,” Seneca Valley coach Dina Hughes said. “That makes us tough to defend.”
Seneca Valley’s 8-4 lead came under severe pressure during Sewickley Academy’s determined comeback.
“We always had that lead, but it was starting to get a little antsy at the end,” Struss said.
Seneca Valley also advanced to the state playoffs and will open competition June 1 against the third-seeded team from District 3.