Serra Catholic posts shutout, moves to quarterfinals
It took nine years, but Serra Catholic is back in the WPIAL Class A boys soccer quarterfinals.
Senior midfielder Mike Mercea had a hat trick while sophomore goalkeeper Anthony Koval didn't have to make a save until 29 minutes, 48 seconds remained in regulation as Serra Catholic rolled to a relatively easy 5-0 win over Beth-Center on Monday at Peters Township in the first round of the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
The third-seeded Eagles will play No. 11 Winchester Thurston, a 1-0 overtime winner against No, 6 Seton-La Salle, on Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
“I've worked all my life for this, and it finally showed,” Mercea said. “I honestly couldn't do it without my team because they assist me on every goal.”
It was the first postseason win for Serra Catholic (14-2-1) since a 5-2 victory over Charleroi in the opening round of the 2003 tournament. It's a complete turnaround for a program that missed the playoffs in 2010 and was one-and-done as the No. 14 seed in 2011.
“It's a huge milestone and the monkey's off our back.But we felt confident coming in here, we felt confident all year and the guys performed,” Serra Catholic coach Don Sabol said. “We've been playing with pretty much the same lineup for the last three years now and I thought we could have done better in the playoffs last year, but the maturity and confidence these guys have, they believe they can play with anybody and they're starting to show it.”
Had the Eagles truly taken advantage of their opportunities, the score could have been even more lopsided. Serra Catholic, which finished with a 17-1 shot advantage, had several outstanding chances in the second half only to be thwarted by the outstanding play of Beth-Center sophomore goalkeeper John Berdar.
Finishing on key scoring opportunities is not a problem per se, but it is something the Eagles want to tweak as they move into the quarterfinals.
“I wouldn't say it's a real big concern, but it is something we've got to work on,” Sabol said. “We've got to finish better. No doubt.”
Serra Catholic dominated territorially the first 10 minutes of the match but had little to show for it outside of a couple of shots that went awry as Beth-Center (9-7-0) attempted to work its defense to slant the attack to the left side of the pitch. That all changed quickly as the Eagles finally broke through Beth-Center's defensive shift.
After attacking down the left side and firing a shot on the Beth-Center net that was stopped by Berdar, Serra Catholic forward Tyler Gerbur, who later scored a second-half goal, was awarded a corner kick. Gerbur lofted the ball into the interior box where defender Grant Taylor chipped to Mercea, who rammed it home to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead at 13:30.
Beth-Center didn't have time to settle in before Serra Catholic struck again. This time, senior forward Josh Lohr did the honors. He took a breakout pass and went in all alone on the Bulldogs' net. Lohr scored for a 2-0 Eagles lead at 13:46.
Mercea scored his second goal at 27:40 of the first half to give Serra Catholic a 3-0 lead at the intermission.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.