Greensburg Central Catholic tops short-handed Springdale to reach WPIAL boys soccer final

Saturday, October 26, 2019 | 8:46 PM

The WPIAL season ended in heartbreaking fashion for Greensburg Central Catholic last year, losing the championship match to Avonworth on penalty kicks.

This season, the Centurions set out to erase that memory.

Step 1 happened in the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals, when they defeated Avonworth.

Step 2 could happen next week.

Second-seeded GCC defeated short-handed Springdale, 4-2, on Saturday in the semifinals in a steady drizzle at Hampton.

“We started figuring out as we got into the game what kind of space we had and how much time,” Centurions coach Tyler Solis said. “But with this weather, things happen.”

The Centurions, who have won six of their past seven matches, will head to Highmark Stadium to try to capture their first title since 2009. GCC gets a rematch against section foe Winchester Thurston (16-1). The top-seeded Bears and the Centurions split a pair of regular-season matches.

“I’m not worried about our opponents,” Solis said. “We have some history with them. But I think if we play our game, with the talent we have, we have a good chance to be the better team.”

Springdale (14-4), which played a man down the entire second half, struck first in the 23rd minute. It was the Mitchell-to-Mitchell combination, the same duo who teamed up for the winning goal in overtime against Bishop Canevin in the quarterfinals that gave the Dynamos the lead.

Senior midfielder Mike Mitchell sprung his younger brother, Chris, with a through ball. The freshman chipped the ball past Centurions goalkeeper Max House just inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for Greensburg Central Catholic (14-3-1) to answer, and it was their leading goal scorer and Indiana recruit Nate Ward who tied the match.

Ward controlled the ball on the left side and turned and fired a shot inside the far post to beat Springdale’s Andrew Haus in the 29th minute for his 24th goal of the season to tie the match at 1-1.

What happened a minute later changed the match for both teams.

Senior midfielder Sammy Rzeszotarski made a hard tackle on GCC’s Max Szekely just outside the box. The referees decided the play was dangerous, and Rzeszotarski received a red card. Springdale played with 10 men the rest of the match.

According to Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez, the call was changed after the referees conferred.

“Sammy was called for a violent foul,” Sanchez said. “They gave a yellow, but they changed to a red after they got together.”

“Anytime a team goes a man down, you immediately try and dictate the pace,” Solis said.

Greensburg Central Catholic’s Ricco Ciccarelli gave the Centurions their first lead three minutes into the second half.

Freshman Carlo Denis used his speed to get to a loose ball in the left corner. Denis fed Ciccarelli the ball and the junior fired a long-range shot past Haus to give GCC a 2-1 lead.

The lead didn’t last long.

Springdale earned a corner kick, and Mike Mitchell’s cross found Roman Liberati at the near post. Liberati found the net with a sliding effort for his second goal of the season to tie the game 40 seconds after the Centurions had taken the lead.

“I was pleased with our offensive effort,” Sanchez said. “But with 10 men, it’s difficult for Ephrain (leading scorer Ephrain Duku) to get the ball.”

The tie would last until the 64th minute.

Mason Fabean, who scored the winning goal in the win over Avonworth, received a cross from Seth Skowronek and with a diving header at the far post the sophomore gave the Centurions a 3-2 lead with his 20th goal of the season.

Greensburg Central Catholic would add an insurance goal three minutes later on Denis’ 21st goal of the season.

Springdale, which saw its nine-game winning streak end, had only allowed 11 goals on the season prior to the semifinals. Springdale has a chance to qualify for the state playoffs with a consolation match against section foe Carlynton.

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