It’s quality over quantity as Greensburg Central Catholic girls battle low roster numbers

Tuesday, October 3, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Greensburg Central Catholic’s girls soccer team will play a game for the first time since Sept. 20 when it visits Seton LaSalle on Wednesday night.

The Centurions (5-1), ranked No. 3 in the WPIAL and No. 6 in the state in Class A, had to postpone three consecutive games — including two Section 1-A matchups — due to a shortage of players who have been out with illness or injury.

The last few weeks have been a challenge for first-year coach Derek Cuthbert, who has taken a pragmatic approach to a less-is-more situation.

Even a perennial power is not above depth issues.

“We’re the Magnificent Seven one day and the Dirty Dozen the next,” he said in his Scottish accent.

GCC only had 11 for one game so it could not substitute. It only had four girls for a recent practice.

“No worries,” Cuthbert said. “We’re making it work.”

At a recent practice, when he had nine girls — senior Antonia Stickle joined the team after a cross country meet — Cuthbert had the team playing on a mini 10-yard field behind Centurion Stadium. Posts were set up in the corners and the goals were also miniature.

A tactician, Cuthbert likes the smaller, controlled setting to better implement direct play.

“We can still work on our passing and fundamentals,” Cuthbert said. “The thing about a team with greater numbers is that the parents always want to question playing time. Here, all the girls are playing.”

With junior goalkeeper Leah Jones out, junior defender Addison Vacanti recruited junior Erica Rodriguez, a basketball and softball player, to add at least one more to the roster.

Rodriguez could end up playing goalkeeper with a trial-by-fire welcome to the game.

“We’ve had to reboot a few times now,” Vacanti said. “It’s different, but we’re holding each other accountable. We have small numbers, but we’re still working hard to keep GCC (among the best teams).”

Part of the deal to get Rodriguez is for Vacanti to play basketball in the winter.

Rodriguez said she hasn’t played soccer since she was 3.

“They needed more players so I figured, why not?” Rodriguez said. “I will be nervous once the games start. But it’s exciting.”

In the first Springdale game, GCC lost senior starter Ella Muchusko to a knee injury.

“I think we’re working harder with the lower numbers,” junior midfielder Tori Walters said. “We’re going with what we have.”

GCC, whose only loss is to No. 2 Springdale (3-0), has won five in a row and is averaging nine goals a game.

All of a sudden, the Centurions are set to play five games in 11 days, the makeups against Riverview and Springdale included.

As the team heals, it knows it won’t have the lineup it foresaw in August, but it will strive to find continuity with a recharged shape.

“This has given other girls a chance to play and show what they can do,” Cuthbert said. “We have freshmen who have been thrown in the deep end.”

Junior defender Jillian Botti and sophomore forward Jiana Paterson are among those working their way back to a regular game and practice schedule.

Conditioning has been a part of Cuthbert’s regimen. He has the team run a mile or so around the campus before practices.

“It’s not always about the fastest kid, though,” Cuthbert said. “It’s the smartest kid, the kid who is a step ahead of everyone in the game.”

Cuthbert said the less games his team plays, the better.

“That means more time for rest,” he said. “Development, quality and growth go out the window in a regular high school soccer season. It just becomes a battle of the fittest, who can last the longest and avoid injuries. We are very happy only playing section games and one or two preseason games, with maybe a game to prepare for playoffs.”

Quality over quantity even works on the schedule.

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


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