Balanced Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer team again a title favorite

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

The team that had its collective heart broken by Springdale last season is a dynamo itself.

“We have a lot of competitive kids,” said Ashley Shasko, Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer coach. “We have great team chemistry and have a lot of fun, but at the same time, our kids are focused and working hard.”

A state championship came into focus last November when the Centurions took a 22-0 record into the PIAA Class A semifinals. They were playing Springdale, a team they had defeated in all three of their encounters — twice in Section 4 and once in the WPIAL championship game.

This time, the Dynamos prevailed, 2-0, en route to PIAA silver. Greensburg Central finished 22-1.

A new season dawns this week, and the Centurions have similar aspirations. Valid aspirations. Eight starters are back with a squad that registered 141 goals last year, sixth-best nationally. Two of those returnees combined for 100 goals. And the defense, according to their coach, is equally effective.

“We scored a lot of goals, but we did a great job defensively, too,” Shasko said. ”I can't say one area is better than the other.”

Juniors Frannie Crouse and Malea Fabean, two of the WPIAL's top players, fuel the offense from midfield and forward, respectively.

Crouse, who has verbally committed to Penn State, had 55 goals and 29 assists a year ago. Fabean, a Pitt recruit, had 45 goals and 35 assists.

“The most important thing is they are strong leaders,” Shasko said. “They are positive influences for younger players, and they raise the play of others.”

Crouse and Fabean are captains, along with the only seniors on hand, midfielder/defender Pauline Cole and defender Charlotte Szekely.

The other returning starters are junior midfielder Jessie Yancosky, sophomores Italia Biondi and Cassie Sauter (both forward/midfield) and sophomore defender Megan Shearson.

Biondi was a capable scorer as a freshman, netting 21 goals.

Goalkeeper Makenzie Shearson, now at Pitt, had 14 shutouts last season. Sophomores Olivia Binda and Kate Pedder are vying for her position.

The Centurions will open the season Friday at Fox Chapel in a nonsection contest. Shasko, who is 37-6-1 in two seasons, expects Shady Side Academy and Springdale to be the Centurions' top competition in the section and WPIAL.

“We always have an eye on Shady Side Academy and Springdale. But we have to focus on what we need to do,” she said. “We're looking forward to a great season.”

Rick Shrum is a freelance writer.

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