Greensburg Central Catholic girls go for WPIAL repeat in title game vs. Steel Valley

Thursday, November 4, 2021 | 8:01 PM

Nobody told Greensburg Central Catholic’s girls soccer players a WPIAL repeat would come easy.

The Centurions have found that out for themselves in the last two rounds of the Class A playoffs.

For every finesse goal they have scored, teams have punched back and tailed them all the way to the end.

This is a far cry from section play, where goals were plentiful and leads hardly were threatened.

GCC went to overtime against No. 8 seed Riverside and nearly saw No. 5 Freedom rally in the semifinals before wiping their collective brow both times with one-goal wins.

“It was really nerve-racking. We were just trying to push it to the last minute, just trying to keep (the ball) out of our end,” GCC freshman Riley Kerr said of the 4-3 semifinal win over Freedom in which the Centurions (15-1) nearly blew a 4-1 lead. “We weren’t really focusing on scoring … playing a lot more defensive at the end than what we were doing at the beginning.”

Kerr scored twice against Freedom and had the winner against Riverside in the quarterfinals.

Now she and her teammates will try for a less stressful WPIAL championship when they take on third-seeded Steel Valley (17-3) at 6 p.m. Friday at Highmark Stadium.

The lead-protecting experience could pay off against the Ironmen, who have 19 goals in three playoff wins. Steel Valley shined on the defensive side in a 1-0 win over Springdale, the only team to beat GCC this season (4-2).

“It only takes one to get the switch turned on,” GCC coach Olivia Kruger said of opposing rallies. “I don’t think we felt comfortable at any point in that (Freedom) game.”

Kruger admitted her team decelerated some with a three-goal lead, something that probably won’t help their cause against Steel Valley, a team in the finals for the first time.

GCC is chasing its second straight title, eighth overall and seventh in Class A since 2011.

“I think we did feel a little bit more comfortable, lax a little bit,” Kruger said. “Especially where we’ve had so many games where we get up 3-, 4-, 5-0 and we fit in so comfortable. It’s not totally unrealistic for us to get that mindset.

“My philosophy comes from positivity. At halftime I wasn’t displeased with how we were playing. They look to me for inspiration, but a lot of it comes from themselves. I’m not standing on the sidelines hoping and praying and eating Sour Patch Kids, trying not to lose it.”

Kruger won a championship in her first season but did not get to coach at Highmark because the WPIAL played title games in 2020 at high school venues after Highmark shut down because of the pandemic.

GCC beat Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 3-2, in last year’s final. GCC led that game 3-1 before OLSH scored in the 68th minute.

Experience could pay off for GCC, which has a lineup of players who have made lengthy playoff runs.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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