GCC's Petrillo getting kick out of success
Nicole Petrillo thought she wasn't good on her feet, then she began playing soccer.
As her freshman season at Greensburg Central Catholic nears its end, Petrillo already has claimed the school's girls single-season scoring record for goals with 38, eclipsing the previous standard of 37 held by Katie Norton.
"My parents started me out with ballet and tap," Petrillo said. "That didn't go very well. They figured since I wasn't graceful enough to dance, I could play soccer."
GCC coach Jim Hampton chuckled when the remark was relayed to him.
"She's probably one of the best athletes I've ever coached," he said. "She would probably be good in anything she did.
Not when it comes to dancing, Petrillo insisted.
"I'm a horrible dancer," she said. "I'm very stiff when it comes to dancing."
When it comes to soccer, she's fluid and productive.
Thirty-eight goals speaks to that.
"She could have scored more if I'd let her in longer," Hampton said. "But I won't run it up."
On Wednesday night, Petrillo assisted on Liz Robinson's goal -- the game's lone score near the 20-minute mark of the first half -- as Greensburg Central Catholic (17-1, 13-1) beat Jeannette (17-1-1, 13-1) to share the Section 1-AA title with the Jayhawks. The Centurions broke last year's wins record of 16 in a season with the victory.
Greensburg Central finishes its regular season Saturday at Mt. Pleasant and then will move on to the playoffs.
"It was a good game, it went back and forth," Hampton said. "The teams split the series this year, each winning on their home turf. My team is young. I'll only lose three senior starters.
Although she was new to varsity competition this season, Petrillo has been seasoned by club play, including being a member of a runner-up team at a national indoor competition this past summer.
"I had no idea I'd get this many goals. It just happened," she said. "When I got close to the record, I set a goal to beat it."
Her next target is the school season record of 48, held by Jeff Farrell.
"I won't make it this year," she said. "But I'll push myself next year."
As her scoring totals have mounted, teams have begun to take extreme defensive measures to deal with Petrillo.
"I've been marked man-to-man, and in one game, I went to talk to coach Hampton, and the girl was there right next to me," Petrillo said. "It was ridiculous.
"It's not as much fun because I can't be as creative. But I think I got two in that game. I got past her because I was faster. It allows me to give a lot of assists to other people. They've helped me, so it's one way I can help them back."
Petrillo said her favorite soccer player is not women's star Mia Hamm, but rather another teenager, 15-year-old pro Freddy Adu.
"He's like my age, which is amazing," Petrillo said.
Youth is being served throughout the area high school scene according to Hampton.
The WPIAL's leading scorer, South Allegheny's Jonna Handra, is a freshman.
Hampton's Greensburg Central Catholic team is getting considerable contributions from three freshmen -- Petrillo at forward/midfielder, Jessica Szekely at sweeper and Vincenzia Pimpinella at midfielder.
"This freshman class in the WPIAL is probably the most talented I've seen, and I've been coaching 21 years," said Hampton, who before taking over at Greensburg Central Catholic this season, had previous experience at Derry Area and St. Vincent College. "What we're seeing is, we're getting top athletes. The girls are sticking with soccer as opposed to volleyball or softball."