Last Updated: Sat Nov 06, 2021 - 2:04AM
With the Greensburg Central Catholic girls and boys soccer teams playing back-to-back in their respective WPIAL Class 1A title games at Highmark Stadium in Station Square, the Centurions had an opportunity to make it a golden night. Unfortunately, GCC had to settle for a pair of silvers, as the boys could not hold a second-half lead and lost 3-1 to Winchester Thurston, while the girls suffered a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat in overtime against Steel Valley.
In pursuit of a three-peat in the smallest classification, the top-seeded GCC boys squared off once more against the No. 2 Bears, who they defeated in the championship in both 2020 and 2019.
It didn’t take long for the Centurions (15-4) to strike, as 14 minutes into the first half Ryan Appleby gained possession on the right wing and dished a pass to Carlo Denis. From there, Denis dribbled to his left, and from the top of the box, fired a shot that tucked inside the left post to put GCC ahead. It marked the team-leading 28th marker for Denis on the campaign, breaking a tie with Mason Fabean.
“Great shot. I don’t think the goalie really had a chance to get to it,” explained first-year GCC head coach Rob Fabean.
That was far from the only sterling chance in the opening half for Greensburg Central Catholic, as the Centurions controlled the play for most of the stanza. But they were unable to extend their advantage.
“We were doing a good job of creating chances in the first half,” Fabean noted. “One of those games where you have an abundant amount of chances in the first half and you don’t put ‘em away, they usually come back to haunt you. And they did.”
Over the final 10 minutes of the opening half, the pitch began to tilt in favor of the Bears. That prompted Fabean to make an adjustment involving his son.
“I moved Mason to center back and played with four in the back to get out of the half,” he said. “For the most part, we were doing what we needed to do to keep the ball out of dangerous spots.”
Indeed, GCC carried that advantage into the half, and maintained its lead for approximately 20 minutes of the second half.
That’s when the complexion changed drastically stemming from a missed call, according to Rob Fabean. With GCC defending, a Centurion was seemingly tripped, but no foul was whistled, and since the ball was last touched by him before crossing the goal line, Winchester Thurston (19-0-1) received a corner kick.
On the ensuing play, Alex Hauskrecht blasted a ball that curved on goal and out of reach from GCC goalkeeper Michael Oldenburg to deadlock the score.
“I don’t think the play should’ve even happened because of what happened 10 seconds before that,” lamented Fabean.
The score remained tied until the final 10 minutes, when the Bears netted the decisive goal. After Oldenburg made a sparkling save on an initial shot from the Bears, Jordan Poller-Prince picked up the rebound and deposited it for the go-ahead marker.
Winchester Thurston sealed the title victory with an insurance goal by Tomer Tuti with less than three minutes left. As a result, WT notched its second WPIAL crown in team history.
“They don’t make a whole lot of mistakes,” Fabean said of Winchester Thurston. “Tonight wasn’t a game filled with mistakes for us to capitalize on.”
Greensburg Central Catholic will have an opportunity to rebound, however, as the Centurions will commence the PIAA Class 1A postseason next week. A year ago, GCC reached the state title game, but came up short.
“It’s always been a goal of ours to get back there, so we just need to refocus. New season starts on Tuesday,” said Fabean.
The GCC girls will likely seek a similar approach, as they will aim to rebound from a heartbreaking overtime defeat to Steel Valley on Friday. The No. 1 seed Centurions (15-2-0) were about five minutes away from making their 1-0 lead stand, but a marker by the third-seeded Ironmen tied the match.
Nine minutes into extra time, Steel Valley freshman Therese Doering ricocheted a ball off a GCC player and into the net for the golden goal, giving the Ironmen (18-3-0) the first WPIAL gold in team history.
Offense was at a premium for most of the match, as the teams were held scoreless through the first half, and well into the second stanza.
That changed in the 63rd minute, though, as the Centurions lone goal came when Tatum Gretz delivered a brilliant through ball to Sara Felder, who took a left-footed shot inside the far post.
Steel Valley had an answer, though, courtesy of a set piece. Kylie Salopek delivered a perfect ball that was headed in by Soraya Gibbs with 4:44 left.
With no additional scoring in regulation, the stage was set for Doering’s OT heroics, which also came as a result of a free kick.
Greensburg Central Catholic played the contest without head coach Olivia Kruger, who had been expecting a child and began labor earlier on Friday.