Gretz guides GCC girls soccer to early lead, into PIAA Class A semifinals

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Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 6:59 PM


Some day in the near future, Tatum Gretz hopes to be scoring goals in the Big East for Villanova.

She has been committed since she was a freshman.

Until then, she will continue to fill up the net in big playoff games for Greensburg Central Catholic.

The standout junior midfielder tallied a pair of scores in the first six minutes of Saturday’s PIAA Class A quarterfinal, and the Centurions maximized the momentum and raced away with a 7-1 victory over West Branch at Norwin.

Senior Sam Felder added a hat trick for the Centurions, who kept their record perfect at 18-0.

They will play Cambridge Springs (14-4-1) in the semifinals Tuesday at a time and site to be determined. The game could be at Norwin again.

“We knew we needed to start fast,” said Gretz, who has 24 goals this season. “That was our plan. We knew (West Branch) was a good team. We didn’t want to underestimate them. We want to keep going.”

Sophomore Sara Felder and freshman Antonia Stickle also had goals for GCC, which has reached the state semifinals four times in five years.

West Branch, which recently won its second straight District 6 title and followed with its first state-playoff win (2-1 over Fannett-Metal in overtime), finished the season at 18-3.

The Warriors cut GCC’s early lead to 2-1 when junior Mariah Hayles slipped a high-sailing free kick past GCC junior keeper Lyndsey Szekeley in the 16th minute.

But the Centurions followed with a steady stream of offense and stopped West Branch in its tracks.

Sam Felder followed with another score, and sophomore Sara Felder scored her 26th goal of the season on an attack from the right side to make it 4-1 in the 24th minute. She finished with a high chip shot.

GCC made four of its first six shots on goal.

“We came in with the motivation that if we came out early and played well, it would start things for us,” GCC first-year coach Olivia Kruger said. “It’s better for us to start from ahead. There are so many big-kick teams in the playoffs. We have to work on our possessions and play our game.”

In the 28th minute, Sam Felder struck again when she rattled in a shot off the post.

“Tatum got us going with the first two goals, and we were able to continue the momentum and add to that,” said Sam Felder, who is up to 23 goals this year. “We are focused on playing one game at a time.”

Stickle’s long blast from an odd angle went in far post to give GCC a 6-1 advantage by halftime, before Sam Felder took a cross from senior Hannah Nelson and scored again in the 47th minute.

GCC outshot the Warriors, 27-2.

“It’s tough to compete against a team with girls who pay $9,000 to go to school there,” West Branch coach Angie Fenush said. “It’s the public-vs.-private thing again. They’re a very good team. They have Division I and II players. It was a great experience for our girls. When (GCC’s) players are playing on TV, our girls can say they played against them.”

Fenush thought GCC should have rested some starters and recoiled some offensively with a big lead.

“Why would you risk injury?” she said. “She kept them in the whole game. It’s tough to make a three-hour trip and have that happen. They were averaging eight goals a game and we held them to seven. Our girls didn’t quit.”

Kruger said her short bench and she was not trying to run up the score. She showed sympathy for Warriors’ senior keeper Sarah Betts, who made 15 saves and played with a heavy heart in what would be her final high school game.

Betts’ mother, Sue, died last Sunday after a long bout with breast cancer.

Another daughter, sophomore Hannah Betts, also plays for the team.

“It’s amazing what Sarah did out there today,” Fenush said. “I thought (defender) Olivia Stavola also played great.

“Our girls tried hard and had some fun. It will tough to lose our two seniors. Sarah and (senior) Trinity Prestash have meant so much to our program and have been great leaders.”

GCC held Prestash scoreless, an impressive feat considering she is the program’s all-time leading goal scorer with 46.

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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