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Roster turnover doesn't faze Greensburg Central Catholic boys soccer

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 11:24 p.m.
Lindsay Dill | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic junior Nick Corona tries to maintain control of the ball while freshman Mark Thalman tries to stop it during their first week of soccer practice on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, in Greensburg.
Lindsay Dill | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic senior Austin Sheffield advances the ball while senior Mycal Pedder defends during practice Tuesday, August 20, 2013, in Greensburg.
South Park's #6 Brandon Walbert gets the ball past Belle Vernon's #3 Anthony Zenobi at South Park's soccer field,final South park 3 Belle vernon 0. Jim Ference | Valley Independent
(from left), Canon McMillan's Corey McCurdy, and Upper St. Clair's Wes Burdette, battle for ball possession, during the boys soccer championship match held at Elizabeth Forward High School stadium on Saturday evening, November 3, 2012. Kim Stepinsky | For The Tribune-Review

Frank Fratto said it wasn't as if he and Adam Tucker and Mycal Pedder got together at the end of last season in a concerted effort to assert themselves as the Greensburg Central Catholic boys soccer team's leaders.

There was no secret meeting, no conference call, no group email.

“It just kind of ended up happening that way,” said Fratto, a senior midfielder.

It might not have been orchestrated, coach Tom Sochacki said, but it sure was noticeable.

“Right off the bat in the winter, they took over the team and made it theirs,” Sochacki said.

“There's still a lot we need to do with the younger kids with instruction, and we have a younger team than we had last year. But in terms of our leadership and work ethic, nothing's dropped off. It's all still there from when I took over three years ago. And I'm really crediting those three guys.”

Tucker, a junior forward, and Pedder, a senior defender, join Fratto as the glue holding together a Greensburg Central Catholic team that was a WPIAL Class A finalist and PIAA quarterfinalist last season.

The Centurions have been in three of the past four WPIAL title games but must replace several talented seniors, some of whom are playing college soccer.

“There definitely is a different feeling in things without those guys — personality-wise and on the field, too,” Fratto said. “But that doesn't mean we're not going to be all that bad this year, either. We've got to work on some things, but with some of the players we've got back plus some of the new ones we've added, we should be pretty good.”

Senior Ben Brandon and junior Tim Szekely are other returnees on what is an experienced and talented back line for the Centurions. Center-midfieler Riley Slike also is back as a sophomore.

He was one of the top freshmen in the WPIAL last season — a designation Sochacki foresees for forward Mark Thalman, outside midfielders Trace Dunton and Jacob Schwab and goalie Jack Murray. All figure to be significant contributors immediately.

“We've got a couple studs who definitely can play,” Fratto said of his team's freshmen.

Sochacki said the team began its offseason training earlier this year, in part, because of the abundance of turnover — and of quality incoming freshmen.

“We've been going almost since winter, so they're pretty much adjusted to everything I'm going to throw at them,” Sochacki said. “By the time they start the season, they won't really be freshmen. They're going to play a lot right off the bat.”

The seniors for GCC have been in high school for teams that have gone a combined 42-10-1 with a 30-1-1 section record during the regular season the past three years.

In short, they know how to win. Sochacki said that will help make up for whatever the Centurions lack in experience.

“We're going to take our lumps; we're going to lose some games,” he said. “It's not going to be like the last three years where we only lose two or three games, and those were to (Class AAA teams). But you know what, what matters is if we're ready by playoff time. That's our goal right now, and we're good enough to be playing our best by then.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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