GCC soccer pressing for more in state playoffs

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | 5:20 PM


Tyler Solis wants more from his team and expects more from his players, especially in the state playoffs.

“We need to do a better job of closing out games,” the Greensburg Central Catholic coach said. “We have to finish better. It’s that simple.”

Solis harped on that point for several minutes after the Centurions took care of Iroquois on Tuesday night at Hampton, 6-1, in the first round of the PIAA Class A boys soccer playoffs.

The postgame meeting lasted so long, some players and Solis had to leave chilly Fridley Field in the dark because the stadium lights went out.

Iroquois did not have such an effect on the Centurions, although the Braves did cut their lead to 2-1 just after halftime and used an offside trap to frustrate front-running GCC senior star Nate Ward and anyone feeding the lead striker passes.

And they did so one man down. GCC played 11 vs. 10 for much of the night, so Solis thought his team should have dominated, produced a shutout, even.

The Braves’ Andrew Kightlinger was red-carded late in the first half when he tackled Ward from behind. Ward went on to score three goals and freshman Carlo Denis also had a hat trick as GCC (16-3-1) advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals, where it will get a rematch with Springdale (17-4) at 2 p.m. at Peters Township.

The GCC girls (15-4) also will play Saturday at Peters Township, before the boys’ game. They get a rematch with Freedom (22-1) in the state quarters at noon.

GCC’s boys made the semifinals last year and lost to Avonworth, 1-0.

“We can’t be allowing a goal to a team that has 10 players,” Solis said. “It happened against Springdale, too. That’s not acceptable. If we want to keep winning at this point in the season, we have to get better with the lead and play smarter. We can’t just go, go, go all the time.”

What the coach wants is for GCC to scale back the arsenal and take better care of the ball with the lead. More goals are nice but possession soccer, he thinks, will benefit the team more moving forward.

GCC, which won its first WPIAL championship since 2009, beat Springdale in the semifinals, 4-2. The Centurions trailed early in that game and had trouble taking command despite the Dynamos also missing a player in the second half — Sammy Rzeszotarski tackled Max Szekely just outside the box and was issued a red card and the accompanying ejection.

Ward, who leads GCC with 29 goals, understands what his coach is saying, and accepts it, but he said his team’s offensive firepower should not pump the brakes altogether.

“We’ll work on it and get better at finishing,” said Ward, an Indiana recruit who had the team’s lone goal in a 1-0 win over Winchester Thurston in the WPIAL final. “We like to attack and play fast. I don’t believe in letting up against anyone.”

Denis also has a penchant for finding the back of the net. He has 24 goals.

Ward and Denis have made for a nice one-two punch, with a unique, senior-freshmen dynamic working quite well.

“Nate is the now guy but it’s so nice to have talent coming through with Carlo,” Solis said. “Both of their workrates are through the roof. Nate has mentored the whole team.”

Denis said he is surprised to have this many goals. He looked like he had been there before when he took the field for his first state playoff game.

“Nate is a great leader and makes us all better,” Denis said.

Ward respects Denis and his budding game.

“I don’t look at it like now is my time and he is the future,” Ward said. “If I was out of the game for some reason, I know Carlo and Mason (Fabean) could handle it and get us the same results.”

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

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