Era ending for Ward family dynasty in Greensburg Central Catholic soccer

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Thursday, November 18, 2021 | 7:40 PM


The Ward family name has long been a part of Greensburg Central Catholic soccer. It holds pride and championship clout.

Three sisters and a brother have continued the family legacy up the program ladder — Sarah, Sydney, Natalie and Nate.

They know a little about playing for championships, WPIAL and PIAA alike, especially Sarah, who won two state titles as a player.

She is now an assistant coach for the GCC girls (18-2), who will take on Southern Columbia (18-7) for the second straight year in the PIAA Class A championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

Lately, Ward has been a history teacher, too.

Her mentoring and experience is a nice luxury for the Centurions.

“I’ve really enjoyed being able to share the history of the team and winning tradition of GCC soccer with the girls,” Ward said. “It was a disappointing loss at WPIALs, but I spoke about how my team had lost WPIAL in 2013 and still went on to win states that year. It can be pretty intimidating to play for these major championships, especially for the young girls that haven’t been here before. We’ve just kept saying every round of playoffs to block out all the pressure and expectations and play their game.

“We have a really talented group of girls that I know can get it done Saturday.”

Natalie Ward, a senior defender, is the last of her siblings to come through the program.

“It will be a bittersweet last soccer game for the Wards,” Sarah Ward said. “We’re just so grateful for the friendships and experiences we’ve had over the years.”

GCC will make its seventh trip to the state final as it chases down its third state title.

Ward played on both state-title teams, as a freshman and sophomore (2012-13). GCC beat Conwell-Egan in 2012 (5-1) and Southern Columbia the next year (2-1).

She also has a state runner-up finish. Ward was a junior when the Centurions made it to Hershey in 2014 and lost to Trinity Camp Hill (3-0).

Sydney Ward, now a junior midfielder at Akron, also played on the 2014 team.

Their brother, Nate, a sophomore forward at Indiana, won two WPIAL titles at GCC but did not make the state final.

“I know I speak for my whole family when I say we’re so proud to have been a part of the success that GCC soccer has had over the years,” Sarah Ward said. “My siblings are all incredible leaders on and off the field and have been major contributors on these championship runs. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to come back and coach during my youngest sister Natalie’s senior year.”

Natalie Ward wants to follow in Sarah’s footsteps and bring home another state gold.

“In the past, GCC teams have lost WPIALs and gone back and won states, and that’s our goal,” she said. “We have a pretty young defense besides myself, with two freshmen and a sophomore, but they really stepped up.”

Family connections don’t end with the Wards. Branches extend from the family tree. Senior 100-plus goal scorer Tatum Gretz is a cousin.

Junior Jake Gretz was a member of the boys team again this season. He won two WPIAL titles and was a state runner-up in 2020.

Senior goalkeeper Lyndsey Szekely, meanwhile, also brings family ties to her second straight state title match. Her cousin, Charlotte, played on the 2012 team that won PIAA gold.

The Felder sisters also know something about the PIAA final. Junior Sara played last year alongside her sister, Sam, who now plays at IUP.

“It’s cool to see the family connections and for the girls to have success,” GCC head coach Olivia Kruger said. “That is a big part of the culture here — the family ties. They’re a close-knit group of girls.”

Junior Haley Gill will make back-to-back trips to Hershey. She joined her sister, Alexa, a year ago.

Another set of sisters on the current roster are the Winnors: senior Bethany and junior Ashley.

Bethany Winnor, a New Hampshire commit, has missed most of the season with an injury.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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