Ward’s hat trick leads No. 2 Greensburg Central Catholic to 1st-round victory
Greensburg Central Catholic stretched the Vincentian Academy defense thin with wide passes and used its team speed to keep the shots coming from the start. The result was an 8-0 victory on Monday night in a WPIAL Class A first-round boys soccer playoff game at Franklin Regional.
Junior midfielder Nate Ward scored a hat trick inside the opening 15 minutes to pace the No. 2-seeded Centurions (15-1) to their 13th straight win and fifth in a row in the first round.
Allowing a team like GCC to dictate the tempo can be a dangerous endeavor.
“I enjoyed seeing us, when we got the ball, making runs off of it,” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “A lot of times we sit and don’t want to run off the ball. We did that today, and the field opened for us. We’re a pretty explosive team. We got rolling.”
GCC advances to play No. 7 Brentwood (10-2-2) in the quarterfinals Thursday at a time and site to be determined.
Ward opened the scoring less than three minutes in as he ran wide, took a touch pass from sophomore Rico Ciccarelli and scooted a shot left past Royals goalkeeper Matt Soller.
Before the 15th-seeded Royals (5-9) could recover, Ward cashed in again on a rope from 35 yards less than two minutes later.
“We really wanted this game,” Ward said. “We came out guns going, as hard as we could. I didn’t know who was going to score tonight; it doesn’t matter. Whoever gets it, it’s a win. This is just the beginning for us.”
A header from Ward found the net in the 16th minute and his 22nd goal of the season made it 3-0. Chris Kline handled the assist.
Sophomore Dylan Sebek had the fourth goal on a feed from Sean Gargan, and it was 5-0 heading to halftime when Gargan took a nice lead pass from Ward and did the rest.
Ciccarelli and senior Luke Mort added scores early in the second half, with assists from Sebek and Ciccarelli.
Mort committed to Pitt just a few hours before kickoff.
“It was nice to get five goals in the first half,” Mort said. “We got possession going in the back. There wasn’t any counter attacks happening. Spread the field and use our speed. Everything we worked on in practice, and I think it’s going to continue to work throughout the playoffs.”
Mort’s second score, from Kline, made it 8-0. He has a team-high 31 goals this season.
Junior Patrick Brewer made two saves in net for GCC.