Serra beats Winchester Thurston to reach WPIAL soccer semifinals
Tyler Gerbur didn't get carried off the field on his teammates' shoulders after Serra Catholic beat Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals.
He instead settled for hearing his teammates chant his name as they left the pitch.
Gerbur's header past Winchester Thurston goalkeeper Mathieu Lebiere with 48 seconds to play gave third-seeded Serra Catholic (15-2-1) a 2-1 win over the No. 11 Bears at Linton Middle School in Penn Hills. The Eagles will play No. 10 seed Riverside (14-4-1) on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined in their first WPIAL semifinal appearance.
“I was playing center-mid and I yelled for it, and I got it,” Gerbur said. “That was probably the best feeling ever, to hear everyone chant your name and to know that you did something not for your whole team, but for the whole school to be proud of.”
On the winning goal, Mike Mercea broke down the left side and nearly fell as he reached the corner. He kept his balance and fired off a centering pass that Gerbur headed home.
“I feel like I could have played harder the whole game and I knew it would come down to that and I knew the final five minutes I had to pull everything I had out of me,” Mercea said. “I usually don't make runs like that and I could have gone down, but I knew I couldn't and I kept going. Honestly, it was a blind pass, but we work together well and I knew he would be there.”
No one on the field was happier to see the ball go in than sophomore goalkeeper Anthony Koval. With 15:15 remaining in regulation and Serra Catholic clinging to a 1-0 lead, Koval came out to challenge Winchester Thurston's Adrian Bayemi, but the Bears striker chipped the ball over him to tie the game.
“After a goal like that, you just have to keep going,” Koval said. “But I trust my offense, I trust my defense and I knew we'd have this at the end.”
Winchester Thurston, which lost 3-1 and 3-0 to Serra Catholic during the regular seasons, nearly caught a break 1:16 into the match when Koval came 25 yards out of the net to play a loose ball, but instead it deflected off a Bears forward and rolled toward the open net. Just before it crossed the line, however, Serra senior forward Josh Lohr swooped down and cleared the ball out of the goal mouth.
Serra Catholic rallied after that and took the lead at 12:15 when junior defender Grant Taylor chipped home a Gerbur corner kick for a 1-0 lead.
Serra Catholic is now one win away from a earning the school's first berth in the state tournament. With a victory in the semifinals or the third-place match, the Eagles will qualify for the PIAA Class A playoffs.
“I'm so excited about this game that I don't know how I feel, but it has to be great,” Serra Catholic coach Don Sabol said. “For this program to go this far and for these boys to bring this together and score that goal, all they said was, ‘Two more.'”
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.