Greensburg Central Catholic girls fall short in PIAA Class A championship game

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Friday, November 20, 2020 | 1:36 PM


HERSHEY — Southern Columbia is known for being a state football power.

The school’s girls soccer team can play physical too.

With a hounding defense that limited scoring chances for high-scoring Greensburg Central Catholic, forcing the Centurions to play at an uneasy pace, the Tigers ground out a 2-1 victory Friday afternoon in the PIAA Class A championship at Hersheypark Stadium, ending GCC’s perfect season.

The Centurions finished at 18-1.

The Tigers (15-9), who were 7-9 at the end of the regular season and were seeded eighth in the District 4 tournament, won their second state title in three years, led by sophomore talent Loren Gehret’s two goals.

Her long-range game-winner just before the half was worth a replay. But back to that defense.

GCC’s multi-faceted attack was skunked for most of the day, as the Centurions managed just seven shots after registering 34 in a semifinal win over Cambridge Springs. An attack that had so much fluidity and poise all year was weighted down.

“They really pushed us,” GCC coach Olivia Kruger said. “They took us out of our comfort zone. We were rattled and couldn’t play the game we wanted to play. Our girls worked their butts off to get here. It’s unfortunate, but one team has to lose.”

GCC beat Southern Columbia in the 2013 Class A state final, 2-1. The Centurions were back in the title game for the first time since 2014 and were seeking their third PIAA crown.

But Southern Columbia brought a physical style from a physical league, and it was something GCC had not seen all season.

“We didn’t change how we play at all (for GCC),” Southern Columbia coach Derek Stine said. “They are a really good team with a lot of talented players. We knew we had the talent to make a run. I never imagined it would be to a state championship.”

Stine said covid-19-related issues necessitated a jumbling of his team’s schedule, forcing a number of games against good competition over a short time, which helps explain the slow start.

“When you say physical in our sport, people think dirty,” Stine said. “We don’t play dirty, and I would never coach my girls to play that way. They work hard and try to outwork you.”

All of the scoring came in the first half.

With firm control of possession early, Southern Columbia opened the scoring in the 18th minute.

Gehret took a high through-ball from junior defender Colby Bernhard and skidded a shot past GCC junior keeper Liz Szekely, who came out to challenge but had the ball sail over her head.

GCC tied it five minutes later when junior Tatum Gretz found some room in the penalty area and ripped a left-footed shot by Tigers’ goalie Mackenzie Palacz.

Gretz, a Villanova recruit, finished with 25 goals for the season and has 76 for her career.

Senior Sam Felder, who received a late yellow card, had the assist.

The chances were slim after that for GCC, which seemed to have more luck with set pieces than on the ground. But again, the Tigers were always in their way.

“(Southern Columbia) was really aggressive,” Kruger said. “We’re more light on our feet. Our girls wanted this so bad, so this is hard to take. It’s a lot to process right now.”

Gehret wasn’t finished scoring in the half. Her next score was the highlight of the game.

This time, she squared up to the frame from long distance and sent in a high, floating blast from 40 yards.

Suddenly, it was 2-1 just before the break and the Tigers had the momentum.

“I saw an opening and took it,” Gehret said. “I heard my dad up in the stands telling me to take it; he’s crazy up there. I thought it might have been high, but it went in. The first goal was a confidence boost for us.”

Kruger knew from her research that Gehret, who has 52 career goals — 35 for the season and 19 in her last eight games — would be a handful.

“She is a phenomenal player,” Kruger said. “She’s going to have an amazing career.”

Gehret said the Tigers gained confidence after some late-season wins.

“Our confidence didn’t show early in the season,” she said. “But we got better as the season went on. We had a chip on our shoulder.”

GCC’s leading scorer, sophomore Sara Felder, had brush burns on her legs to prove how physical this matchup was.

“They came in hard for tackles,” she said. “They had five in the back. It was tough for us to play our game.

“It hurts to lose, but I am proud to have played for this team and made it this far.”

The Centurions have four runner-up finishes in the PIAA tournament since 2005 to go with two state titles, the other coming in 2012.

Southern Columbia beat Freedom to win the 2018 PIAA championship.

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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