Greensburg Central Catholic girls best Freedom in semifinals

Monday, November 1, 2021 | 10:17 PM

Back in September, the Greensburg Central Catholic and Freedom girls soccer teams went on a scoring frenzy, combining for 14 goals in a two-goal GCC win.

When the teams met again Monday night in the WPIAL Class A semifinals at West Mifflin, it started to look like a repeat of that earlier regular-season game.

While there weren’t as many goals in this one, there was no lack of drama.

Freshman Riley Kerr scored two goals, and top-seeded and defending-champion GCC built a pair of three-goal leads before holding off No. 5 Freedom, 4-3, to advance to its second consecutive championship game at 6 p.m. Friday against No. 3 Steel Valley.

The Ironmen defeated No. 2 Springdale, 1-0, in the other semifinal at Gateway.

Kerr helped GCC advance to the semis by scoring the winner in overtime of a 2-1 victory over Riverside in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

“Happy to get back to the championship,” GCC coach Olivia Kruger said. “Freedom is such a good team because they have such strong forwards. This is my second year coaching this group, and it’s been really fun. It’ll be my first time at Highmark because we played the game at Gateway last year.”

Renae Mohrbacher scored all three Freedom goals, including two in the second half to pull the Bulldogs within one with 27 minutes, 23 seconds left.

It was GCC’s fourth consecutive victory over Freedom in a series that has become one of the top rivalries in the WPIAL. The Centurions (15-1) beat the Bulldogs twice in the 2019 postseason, winning 4-3 in the WPIAL semifinals and 1-0 in the PIAA quarterfinals.

“Hey, somebody gotta win and somebody gotta lose,” Freedom coach Colin Williams said. “They got three goals on us, and I said we gotta get one back. It was 3-1 at halftime, and I said we have to get the next goal. But we didn’t and they got a goal on us and could have put us on our heels, but we came back fine and I’m real proud of them.”

Freedom (14-5) will face Springdale in a consolation game at a site and time to be announced.

Addison Vacanti’s goal at the 22-minute mark gave GCC a 1-0 lead before Sara Felder made it 2-0 just 2 minutes later, scoring off a corner kick amid a scrum in front of the Freedom net.

Kerr scored her first goal unassisted at 13:51 to put GCC in front 3-0, and it looked as though the Centurions would run away with the outcome.

“We thought we had it,” Kerr said. “We let our guard down. We thought we were going to win it easy. But then, it got hard.”

Just 11 seconds later, Mohrbacher, who has 168 career goals, got her first of the night with a shot in close. Kerr got it back to a three-goal lead 5 minutes into the second half off a fine pass from Felder to make it 4-1.

Then, Mohrbacher found the back of the net twice more in a span of a little over 5 minutes, the first on a spectacular, off-balance kick.

“She’s a great talent with a good attitude and tremendous skills,” Williams said. “She brought the team back into it. We don’t think we played as good as we should have. We should have played a little better. We’re disappointed, but we’ll move on to the next round, the next journey.”

GCC has reached the WPIAL semifinals 12 consecutive times and has won six district titles and two PIAA championships.

The Centurions beat Our Lady of Sacred Heart to claim the 2020 WPIAL championship before advancing to the PIAA title game and losing to District 4’s Southern Columbia, 2-1.

Neither team was able to score in the final 27 1/2 minutes, but there were plenty of opportunities on both sides, including twice by GCC’s Felder and twice in the final 2 minutes by Freedom’s Shaye Bailey and Bella Lowe, both stopped at the net by GCC goalkeeper Lyndsey Szekely.

“The clock was going really slow then,” Kruger said. “It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

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