High-scoring Greensburg Central Catholic takes defensive approach in PIAA playoffs

Sunday, November 14, 2021 | 5:52 PM

Greensburg Central Catholic went into the WPIAL championship with energy and bravado.

The Lady Centurions left Highmark Stadium 10 days ago humbled and heartbroken.

Senior Tatum Gretz thinks a good way to erase the bad memories of a 2-1 overtime loss to Steel Valley is to play for a PIAA title this weekend in Hershey.

Not a bad idea. But for that to happen, GCC has to avenge the WPIAL loss with a state semifinal win Tuesday night over Steel Valley.

The teams will meet again as the pre-slotted state playoff format brings them together.

GCC (17-2) and Steel Valley (20-3) will play at 7 p.m. at Elizabeth Forward with a trip to the Class A final on the line.

GCC made the PIAA championship last year but lost to Southern Columbia, 2-1.

“I think we need to score early, make no fouls, play the game we know how to play and just calm down,” Gretz said.

A 100-plus goal scorer for her career who signed with Villanova last Wednesday, Gretz played a different role in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Freedom in the PIAA quarterfinals, going from the attack to the back.

She moved to a holding midfield spot to aid the defense and keep blitzing Freedom from getting loose.

“The entire team stepped up (Saturday) and knew coming into the game (Renae Mohrbacher) was their biggest threat,” Gretz said. “I felt we did a good job containing her.

“I’ll play any position to help our team get the win.”

A defense-first plan could be in the works again for GCC in the second go-around with Steel Valley, a WPIAL champion that won on its first try.

Like Mohrbacher, senior Kelsey Salopek is a dangerous scorer who could be marked by GCC to limit her chances.

The Centurions are known for their speed and finesse, but physical play has been known to win state titles.

“We knew what was on the line and we wanted to get revenge (against Steel Valley),” GCC senior defender Natalie Ward said of Saturday’s win. “It’s time for revenge. We want to make it all the way. Past GCC girls teams have lost WPIALs and gone on to win states. That’s really our next goal.”

GCC has been to the PIAA final five times, all since 2005, with two titles (’12, ’13).

Steel Valley has never made the state title match.

“We have to play as a team and focus up,” GCC interim head coach Hope Creamer said. “We have shake off some of the nerves from being at Highmark. It’s a big stage. A lot of our freshmen were like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ We remember that feeling, and we don’t want that again.”

Freshman forward Riley Kerr has been a bright spot for GCC, scoring six postseason goals.

This might be her first state postseason, but even Kerr values the importance of defense.

“We had to play a lot more defensive,” Kerr said. “We dropped back (against Freedom) and only had one up top, which was me. Sara dropped back. Everyone dropped back. It worked for us.”

Creamer, who is filling in for head coach Olivia Kruger, who is on maternity leave, is trying to keep the strategy simple.

“We have to do what we have been doing,” Creamer said. “We have to work as a team. We have to pick each other up.”

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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