Trib Cup: GCC girls soccer lives up to aspirations
Losing the first game of the season was the best thing that could have happened to the Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer team.
As strange as that sounds, that 9-0 loss to Fox Chapel on Aug. 31 was an inspiration.
Three months later, the Centurions capped off a 23-game winning streak with the program's first PIAA Class A championship after topping Conwell-Egan Catholic, 5-1, at Hersheypark Stadium.
Their impressive winning streak and triumphs at the WPIAL and PIAA championships are the primary reason why the Centurions are the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature and why Greensburg Central Catholic is in first place in the Class AA standings.
“That first loss in our first game was definitely a downer,” said junior forward Frannie Crouse, who had 55 goals this season. “We had to learn from it since we came off from last season thinking we were good.
“We needed that loss, but I would have liked an undefeated season.”
Head coach Ashley Shasko — in her third year at the helm — was at a loss for words when describing her jubilation for what her team accomplished this year. With emphasis on the word “team,” she acknowledged that it took an entire roster and not just one or two players to accomplish what they did.
“A lot of the focus ends up on a couple players, but it was the team development,” she said. “We developed a great team because that's what it took to win. Everyone contributed and everyone worked hard. Everyone worked together as a team and they won as a team.”
Some of the Centurions' success can be attributed to the performance of sophomore goalkeeper Olivia Binda. Combined with a stingy defense in front of her, Binda was the goalie of record for 12 shutouts this year.
Seniors Pauline Cole and Charlotte Szekley and sophomore defender Cassie Sauter were the last lines of defense, and Shasko said without the dominance her defense showed, the offense wouldn't have been able to put up the numbers it did.
“Our defense did a great job,” Shasko said. “Our offense doesn't score as many goals if they don't have a solid defense behind them and the confidence to attack. We were able to play with an offense that could attack with numbers because of their play.”
The offense seemed to score at will this season and give opposing keepers nightmares. Along with Crouse, the Centurions' attack was led by junior Malea Fabean, who had 36 goals and 32 assists, and a surprise sophomore in Italia Biondi, who had 22 goals and 14 assists.
Crouse said herself and Fabean battled to be the best on the team, and intense practices and workouts contributed to them being dominant on the field on game day.
“We're the best of friends on and off the field so I think that helps,” Crouse said. “We are competitive with each other. We do mess around and fight at practice. I'm so lucky to have her on my team.”
Greensburg Central Catholic will return a vast majority of its starters next season and, with a year of experience, Shasko said another state title run is in the realm of possibility.
“It's definitely exciting and something to look forward to,” Shasko said. “I know these girls, and I know they'll set the same standards next year and try to exceed it. They are ambitious like that.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.