GCC’s Nate Ward named Tribune-Review Westmoreland Boys Soccer Player of the Year
Saturday, November 30, 2019 | 6:24 PM
Player of the Year
Sr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic
Nate Ward will, in all likelihood, be remembered as a star soccer player at Greensburg Central Catholic. Rightly so. He’s an all-timer to wear maroon and black.
But think about all of the things he did over the course of his final year of prep sports.
While he was a dynamic goal-scorer for GCC on the pitch, he also caught passes as a wide receiver, returned kicks and kicked for the football team, and was slated to be a key guard for the Centurions in basketball.
He will run track in the spring — a key leg of the 1,600-meter relay team.
Ward has quietly been one of the WPIAL’s top all-around athletes, but he made his mark in his main sport. For that reason, Ward is the Tribune-Review Westmoreland Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Franklin Regional sophomore Anthony DiFalco also was considered.
“Since my time at GCC, we have played the game at a high level and trained at a high level,” GCC soccer coach Tyler Solis said. “None of this came easy for us. I expect a lot out of my boys both physically and mentally.
“Nate coming into the season was someone I really trusted. I knew he had been with me from the start and he would encourage and help the underclassmen grasp our team’s identity. He did not only talk the talk, but he walked it too.”
Ward, an All-WPIAL selection, had 31 goals and eight assists to power GCC to its first WPIAL Class A championship since 2009.
The Indiana recruit will play in the High School All-American Game on Dec. 7 in Orlando.
“Anybody can say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to win the WPIAL. But to be able to stay positive when things aren’t going your way and dedicate yourself for the better of team is what a champion is,” Solis said. “What makes Nate so great is the trust he has in his teammates.”
Ward took some time for a season-ending Q&A.
What was it like finally winning a WPIAL championship?
I have known some of the guys on this team since I could walk. Seth Skowronek and I have talked about winning a WPIAL championship since fourth grade. My little cousin, Jake Gretz, and I used to play soccer together every day at my grandma’s house after school, talking about how one day we would be on the same team and how we were going to win it all. It’s crazy how all of that came true in what seems like such little time. It’s really one of the best feelings at this level to be holding up the trophy.
Can you describe your goal in the title game — the only score of the day by either team?
I took a pass around the top of the 18, split a couple of defenders and got the shot off from close to the baseline. In the moment, it felt like it happened so fast I wasn’t quite sure what had happened.
How did you manage to have such an impact in soccer and football?
Coming into my senior year of soccer, I knew I was going to be carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders. I really can’t credit my team enough for listening and responding to the advice myself and the other seniors gave them all year long. By the end of the year, I truly believe we had 11 leaders on the field. Football this year was really just to have fun with my buddies. By the end of Week 1, that was no longer the mentality. Just like soccer, I wanted to win week in and week out. I’m glad I could help out with special teams and offensively as well. It wasn’t exactly easy managing both sports.
What was it like playing wide receiver, in addition to kicking extra points and field goals?
It was a lot of fun but was nerve-racking sometimes. I usually had to miss the portion of football practice where we went over the offensive plays. So I found myself asking my boy Luke Mazowiecki to help me out with the routes in every single huddle when I went out on the field. Also, I guess its safe to say now, but at one point in the season, my snapper, Brandon Brown, and I decided to plan a bad snap because we thought we needed the first down instead of punting it away. We executed and got it. I won’t forget that one.
Why was this group so equipped to be the first at GCC to win a WPIAL boys soccer championship in a decade?
All year I stressed to them that we have to want it more. I must have said that 10 times a day for three months. Mistakes are going to happen. There’s nothing we can do about that. But if every player on the field gives everything they have and leaves it all out there, then there’s no way we were going to lose.
What held you guys back from winning a state title?
There was no specific reason we didn’t win that semifinal game. Even the best teams lose games. Winchester was a good team. I think we were the better team, but on a stage like that, it could go either way. A couple plays could change the game.
Do you feel like the program is better now than it was when you started playing?
Yes. My freshman year was a lot of fun, I remember. A championship just didn’t seem like it was possible then. Now that we have put in all this work for the last four years, I like to think we have built a legacy and winning tradition. At the championship game, we had half our student body supporting in the stands. I like to think we earned GCC soccer a name for itself and a spot on the map again.
Who is the most inspirational person in your life?
My parents. They have always pushed me to get better, but they never let me forget to enjoy the game. They do so much for my sisters and I. I really can’t thank them enough for all of the opportunities and support they have given me over the years.
If you could change one rule in high school soccer, what would it be?
It will never happen, but I wouldn’t mind seeing stoppage time in high school soccer’s future.
Which team gave you the most trouble defensively?
How do you want GCC fans and followers to remember Nate Ward?
I hope they remember me as a leader. Not only because I wore the captain’s band but because I tried to lead by example.
Let’s say they’re making a movie about you. What actor should they cast to play you?
Tom Cruise or Morgan Freeman.
You win $1 million. What do you buy first?
A 125-gallon saltwater fish tank.
You have sisters who play or played college soccer. Where do the genes come from?
Well, neither of my parents played soccer, but they were both good at basketball, football and their sports. But I’m going to say my grandma and pap, though, because without them in the stands cheering us on, I don’t think any of us would be half as good.
What are you most looking forward to about being an Indiana Hoosier?
Being a part of such an incredible history and legacy. I am incredibly grateful to be a Hoosier. I can’t wait to learn more about the culture.
What would it mean to you to score in the upcoming All-American Game?
It would be a cool experience. I am more excited just to be out there with my family and a lot of accomplished players. I am definitely going to try my hardest to bag one though.
As if soccer, football and basketball aren’t enough, what other sports are you good at?
Right now, I’m looking to have a successful basketball season. I also enjoy baseball, and we have a good 4-by-4 relay team for track this year, so that is going to be a lot of fun as always. Looking forward to continuing a successful and enjoyable senior year.
Niko Apodiakos, Sr., MF, Belle Vernon
All-WPIAL/all-state selection and Seton Hill commit tallied 15 goals and dealt out seven assists.
Carlo Denis, Fr., F, Greensburg Central Catholic
Quickly adapted to varsity soccer and helped lead GCC to a WPIAL title with 25 goals and six assists.
Anthony DiFalco, So., F, Franklin Regional
All-state and All-WPIAL selection scored 30 goals and dished out 14 assists for the WPIAL champion Panthers.
Mason Fabean, So., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic
Key contributor to WPIAL championship team, the Ringgold transfer fired in 19 goals and has six assists.
Matt Federovich, Sr., MF, Norwin
All-WPIAL player led playoff team with 12 goals and added 14 assists.
Cam Frolo, Sr., F, Monessen
All-WPIAL pick recorded 39 goals to reach 100 for his career and had a six-goal game for the Greyhounds.
Connor Hudson, Sr., MF, Franklin Regional
Collected All-WPIAL honors and scored nine goals and contributed 10 assists for the Panthers, who won back-to-back WPIAL titles.
Cole Kaforey, Jr., D, Franklin Regional
All-WPIAL defender was key reason why Panthers continued their defensive mastery with 17 shutouts in 23 games.
Noah Kinter, Sr., F, Southmoreland
All-WPIAL and all-section performer had 16 goals and three assists for Class AA playoff team.
Adam Ornowski, Sr., D, Norwin
All-section player had four goals and six assists for WPIAL quarterfinalist.
Daniel Sassak, So., F, Belle Vernon
All-WPIAL pick led Leopards with 29 goals on 81 shots and added three assists.
Nolan Agostini, Jr., MF, Latrobe
Jake Ballantyne, Sr., F, Hempfield
Nate Brown, Jr., D, Norwin
Gianni Diacopoulos, Jr., GK, Franklin Regional
Reno Kearns, Sr., MF, Penn-Trafford
Tyler Kovatch, So., F, Belle Vernon
Nathan Schlessinger, So., D, Penn-Trafford
Nolan Scholze, Sr., MF, Franklin Regional
Seth Skowronek, Jr., D, Greensburg CC
Lucas Toohey, Jr., MF, Mt. Pleasant
Andrew Yanez, So., GK, Norwin
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .