Greensburg Central Catholic works to overcome Shady Side Academy intimidation

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Sunday, November 10, 2019 | 6:32 PM


Shady Side Academy represents more to Greensburg Central Catholic than a longtime section and playoff rival. More than its next playoff opponent on the pathway to Hershey. More than ordinary.

This team looms large to GCC, but coaches Ashley Davis and Bri Guy want to change that perception, and change it quickly, with the teams’ next encounter just around the corner.

The teams will meet 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the PIAA Class A girls soccer semifinals at Hampton, and if the Centurions (16-4) can change their perspective, the Indians (19-1) just might be gettable.

The winner advances to play either Camp Hill (23-0) or Fairfield (23-2) in the title game 11 a.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

Those unknown teams are less daunting than Shady Side, as things stand right now.

“We’ve been talking to the girls about this stigma with Shady Side Academy and working mentally to get past that,” Davis said. “It’s all mental. You could take a bunch of 5-year-olds and put them in Shady Side uniforms, and our girls would be freaked out. But you could dress up Shady Side’s players in national team purple uniforms and not tell our girls who they are, and we would go out and beat them.”

Still, it’s not like Shady Side completely owns GCC. Their Class A playoff history is pretty even, with each landing more than a few knockout punches. GCC and Shady Side have met in the postseason 11 times since 2010, and GCC has a 6 to 5 edge. They have squared off in the state semifinals four times in that time with each winning two of those matches.

GCC lost to Shady Side in this year’s WPIAL championship 2-1 for its third straight loss to the Indians in the postseason. The Indians blanked GCC, 3-0, in the 2017 state semis.

The WPIAL Section 1 co-champs split during the regular season.

“It’s a mental hurdle,” said GCC senior midfielder Sam Nemeth, who had the lone goal Saturday in a 1-0 win over Freedom in the PIAA quarterfinals. “We have played them so much. We know them and they know us. Both are good teams that match up well physically.”

GCC has two state titles (2012 and ’13), and Shady Side brought home PIAA gold in 2017.

GCC had trouble scoring in the quarterfinals, but the Centurions have had plenty of offensive firepower in the postseason, scoring 29 goals in six games and allowing eight.

Shady Side has outscored opponents 27-3 in the playoffs.

“We’re both very strong teams,” said GCC senior midfielder Brenna Springer, an Akron recruit. “We know to expect from each other. We have to get them out of our heads and focus. We were tired (after the Freedom game) because we put everything on the line. We need to do that again and all work together and defend together.”

Shady Side’s Melissa Riggins had two goals, and Sophia White had another, with all the scoring coming in the second half of a 3-0 win over Mercer in the quarterfinals at Slippery Rock.

Keeper Molly Skvorak made four saves.

GCC sophomore keeper Lyndsey Szekely made four saves against Freedom, the Centurions’ 10th shutout of the season.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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