Greensburg Central Catholic girls slam door on Freedom in PIAA quarterfinals

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Saturday, November 13, 2021 | 7:47 PM


Greensburg Central Catholic and Freedom combined for 21 goals in their previous two matchups this season.

In their third meeting, all it took was one.

A 25th-minute strike from freshman forward Riley Kerr complemented a stocky defensive performance as the Centurions blanked Freedom, 1-0, in a PIAA Class A girls soccer quarterfinal game Saturday at frosty West Allegheny.

WPIAL runner-up GCC (17-2) advances to the state semifinals for the third straight season and will play Steel Valley (20-3) in a district final rematch.

The final statistics favored Freedom (16-6), which saw its season end after its fifth straight loss to GCC, including a 4-3 defeat in the WPIAL semis.

The Bulldogs had 15 shots to GCC’s five and took nine corner kicks to GCC’s two. They controlled possession, sending rapid-fire chances at Centurions senior keeper Lyndsey Szekely.

But GCC didn’t break.

A team that has let teams hang around for way too long in the postseason finally slammed the door on a comeback.

You can keep your shootouts. GCC will take the shutout.

“We have a young defense with two freshmen and a sophomore, but they have really stepped up,” GCC senior defender Natalie Ward said. “I am really proud of them.”

A defensive lineup shift helped keep potent Freedom in check, and that includes containing senior standout Renae Mohrbacher, who ended her prep career with 175 goals.

Senior Villanova signee Tatum Gretz went from playing on the attack in the first half to playing a holding midfield spot in the second for GCC, which beat Freedom, 8-6, early in the season.

“Tatum was getting every single ball,” Creamer said. “She was not giving it up. She was a brick wall.”

Said Kerr: “We had to man-mark all over them. We did really well keeping (Mohrbacher) in her spot.”

Freedom also was sound defensively, but one slip-up can spell doom in the state tournament. One and done.

Kerr was in a perfect spot in front of the net, out of defenders’ reach and staring at an open goal, when junior Sara Felder hit send on a cross-pass.

Freshman Jazmin Winterhalter moved away from the goal as Felder approached, biting on what she expected to be a shot, and the bang-bang play developed from there.

“They had us more marked,” Kerr said. “We were practicing how, if they have it on one side, if we switch it … I knew (Sara) could book it down and cross it in. I was ready to shoot it and finish. We probably were expecting to get a couple goals on them. But that one kept us through, and we played a defensive game after that.”

Felder instead bumped the ball over to Kerr, who has converted a number of goals in her first postseason.

“She did her job,” GCC coach Hope Creamer said. “She followed the ball. That is what we have been coaching all year. You send it in, and you follow it. That’s exactly what she did.

“We got it done and got the result we needed. They found a way.”

Freedom nearly tied it in the 74th minute when the strong-footed Mohrbacher bent a shot toward Szekely, but the ball clanked off the post.

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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