Greensburg CC boys battle past Seton LaSalle for spot in soccer title game
Their patience tested, their pace slowed and their bodies rattled around the turf, Greensburg Central Catholic soccer players overcame their toughest test of the season to move a step closer to their greatest reward.
No. 2 seed GCC overcame a physical, thorny WPIAL Class A semifinal against No. 3 Seton LaSalle to post a 2-1 victory on Monday night at Norwin.
GCC (17-1) advances to the finals for the first time since 2012 and will take on No. 1 Avonworth (19-0-1) for the title on Thursday, Friday or Saturday at Highmark Stadium. The win also automatically qualified the Centurions for the PIAA playoffs.
No. 3 Seton La Salle (17-4) will play Springdale (15-3-1) in the WPIAL third-place game Thursday at a site to be determined.
Game times have yet to be announced.
Reshaping their gameplan was not expected, but the Centurions adapted in a matchup that was physically and mentally draining.
“I saw a different team tonight in our guys,” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “We had to dig deep and play a little differently than we’re used to. I knew from the first 10 minutes that nothing was going to come easy.”
High-scoring GCC barely had been tested in its first two playoff games, blanking Vincentian, 8-0, and Brentwood, 5-0. But the Centurions trailed 1-0 this time before scoring two unanswered -- and taxing -- goals.
“I wish we had scored a few more in the run of play,” Solis said. “We has to change our formation, but we adjusted well to that. Seton was a well-organized team, and they didn’t allow us to get into any flow.”
Despite the contentious play and constant contact -- Seton LaSalle had three yellow cards and GCC two -- GCC controlled possession in the second half and tilted the field before finally capitalizing in the 69th minute.
After a corner kick, Nate Ward played the ball across, and Ryan Reitler alertly tapped in the opportunity to put GCC ahead 2-1.
It was just his seventh goal of the year, but the freshman scored it on a huge stage to extend this playoff run.
“We were sluggish for the first 20 (minutes),” Reitler said. “We had to play our game and trust each other. If we got bodied, we had to give one back. ”
Seton LaSalle, making its fourth straight semifinal appearance, kept GCC 34-goal scorer Luke Mort off the scoreboard despite numerous shot attempts by the Pitt recruit.
“We knew this would be a 2-1 type of game,” Mort said. “We knew how Seton likes to play. We want this championship bad, and we have a lot of guys looking to make that happen.”
The first corner kick of the night resulted in a goal for the Rebels. Junior Ethan Gardner curled one to the far post where senior Kellen Krebs was waiting to head it home in the 23rd minute.
GCC is used to widening the field and playing on the perimeters, and playing fast, at that. But a taller, more defensive-minded opponent was ready for the Centurions’ attack and countered it well.
The E-Zpass lane closed, and traffic backed up, but the Centurions waited their turn to move.
“We haven’t had a game like that, ever. We had to be resilient,” Kline said. “We have an identity, as coach said, and we didn’t want to get away from that. We had to keep our composure.”
The Centurions tied it in the 34th minute off a set piece of their own.
Sean Gargan came set just inside the 9-yard line and dropped the the ball off to Nate Ward, who fired shot that was redirected off a defender past keeper Kaiden Reamer to make it 1-1.