Greensburg Central Catholic girls capture 6th WPIAL championship
The latest chapter in WPIAL Class A girls soccer's best rivalry, despite new players and new coaches on both sides, still featured some of its same old teeth-gnashing traits: contested shots, pressure defense and limited scoring chances.
Nothing comes easy when Greensburg Central Catholic and Shady Side Academy play.
But like it had in two previous playoff games, Greensburg Central Catholic rung out an early goal and relied on defense to clip Shady Side Academy, 1-0, in the WPIAL Class A title game Thursday night at Highmark Stadium in Station Square.
GCC (15-3) now has six titles, including five in Class A. It was the Centurions third title in four years.
Thursday marked the 23rd meeting between the teams since the advent of Class A in 2010. GCC has won 19 times but had failed in three previous playoff games against the Indians, including last year's WPIAL final — a 1-0 loss.
“We're very strong together; when we come together, we're a very strong team,” GCC junior goalkeeper Bella Skatell said. “Very hard to break down. We have a lot of young girls, but we still have strong leadership and that helped us.”
Shady Side Academy (14-4), which was seeking its fourth WPIAL title since 2010, had more depth than GCC, more corner kicks than GCC, but the Indians could not get a shot past Skatell despite increased pressure.
“They had some great momentum at the end, but we were able to dig our heels in and keep them out,” GCC first-year coach Ashley Davis said. “I am used to the 1-0 games, but it's still really nerve-wracking.”
Senior midfielder Sidney Ward gave the Centurions the lead when she chipped a floating shot past stretched-out Indians goalie Molly Skvorak in the 25th minute.
Shady Side had posted seven consecutive shutouts before allowing the score, which came from about 35 yards.
“The ball kind of popped out after the defense was clearing it,” Ward said. “And I was trying to shoot for power. I'm glad Sam (Fedler) was there to help guide the ball back.”
A WPIAL season of ups and downs received resounding punctuation for the Centurions, who at one point saw an 86-game section winning streak end and a two-game losing streak follow.
But all the while, the team stayed the course and continued to galvanize a young group hungry for experience.
“Coach Ashley made sure to keep us focused and keep our heads up high,” Ward said. “It wasn't because of the girls we lost last year, and we had just as much of a chance because we work so hard.”
GCC played with poise as it sat on a one-goal lead.
“I think we were excited, a little nervous and a little bit tired all at the same time,” Davis said. “That's when they were getting quick breaks, but we managed to hold it together.”
Skatell made a nice sliding save about midway through the first half.
She was caught off guard with traffic approaching with 17 minutes to play, but Shady Side's Honora David missed wide left. A few seconds later, Skatell collided with Sophia McMahon in the goal area.
Shady Side turned up pressure in the second half, which resulted in a few corner kicks and much more time in GCC's zone, but could not muster many good shots.
“Our defense has come a long way,” Davis said. “They finally started to press a little higher because they were gaining confidence, and that has made a lot of difference and gotten us this far.
“We had to rely on our whole team. We truly play as a team. That's what made the difference in the end.”
There was a moment of silence before the game for Josh Nelson, a GCC student-athlete who died Wednesday.
The PIAA playoffs begin Tuesday. GCC will play District 9 runner-up Brockway, and Shady Side takes on District 10 champion Wilmington in the first round.