Greensburg CC boys soccer eager for another shot at Winchester Thurston

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Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 11:02 PM


In Greensburg Central Catholic’s last boys soccer game, Ricco Ciccarelli took a delicate pass off the foot of teammate Carlo Denis and ripped a shot past the Springdale goalkeeper for the go-ahead score.

The GCC junior then sprinted toward his sideline, made a sharp U-turn and ran to the far corner flag, where he proceeded to shadow box before he let himself fall backward onto the rain-drenched turf at Hampton.

Knockout punch.

If that was Ciccarelli’s reaction to a goal in the WPIAL semifinals, imagine what he will do if he scores in the Class A championship game.

“Earlier in the season, I told coach (Tyler Solis) if I score a big goal in a big game, I am going to come out with a celebration,” Ciccarelli said. “It was what (former MLS player) Wayne Rooney did after he scored. It was fun to celebrate with the bench.”

No. 2 seed GCC (14-3-1) will step into the ring with a familiar opponent, No. 1 Winchester Thurston (16-1), as the Centurions chase their first WPIAL title in boys soccer since 2009.

The title game is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Highmark Stadium at Station Square.

Winchester Thurston’s lone loss was to GCC.

“I hope our boys are ready for the challenge,” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “It won’t be an easy game. From here on out, they all get tougher.”

The Section 2 co-champions will meet for the third time this season when they take the pitch at Highmark.

“It’s a big section rivalry,” Ciccarelli said. “They beat us at our place, and we beat them at their place. They’re a tough team, but this is our year.”

Surprisingly, the teams did not meet in the postseason last year. Regular playoff participants, they have a knack for playing each other close, at least in recent years.

They split a pair of one-goal games this season (GCC won, 2-1; Winchester Thurston won, 3-2) — GCC scored first on the road and allowed the opening goal at home — and GCC swept the Bears last season.

In 2017, the Bears won two one-score games before ending GCC’s season with a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals.

Since the teams became section foes in 2014, GCC has won 25 of 33 meetings, including the first 18 in a row.

Ciccarelli left his teams’ most recent clash because he received a red card. He had to sit out the following game, a first-round playoff contest against Mohawk.

“I let my emotions get the best of me,” the energetic Ciccarelli said. “I let my team down. I want another chance at them in the finals.”

Solis acknowledged his team plays a finesse style of soccer and said Winchester Thurston relies more on a physical approach.

“It’s technical vs. physical,” Solis said. “They beat us at home for the section. They took the last home game away from our seniors.”

GCC has three, 20-goal scorers: senior Indiana recruit Nate Ward (25), freshman Denis (21) and sophomore Mason Fabean (20).

Solis made a change at keeper at the start of the season, moving senior Patrick Brewer, a Cornell commit for track, to the field and filling in with a one-two punch of sophomore Max House and freshman Jacob Conti. They essentially have shared halves.

“We’ve had two levels, either way up here or way down here, but nothing in the middle,” Solis said. “We have to keep playing at a high level. When we switch it on and play our game, no one can touch us.”

Winchester Thurston has shut out its three playoffs opponents — Beaver County Christian (4-0), Brentwood (4-0) and Carlynton (3-0) — and has outscored its opponents, 116-8.

Beck Buchanan, Alex Hauskrecht and Diederik-Paul Schlingemann scored 23 goals each during the regular season for the Bears. Hauskrecht, Alessandro Memoli and Lance Nicholls scored in the semifinal win over Carlynton.

Winchester Thurston won a WPIAL title in 2014, its last appearance in the finals.

GCC has three titles. The other two came in 2003 and ‘04.

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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