Nemeth’s goal the difference as GCC clips Freedom in PIAA Class A quarters

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Saturday, November 9, 2019 | 7:27 PM


Somehow, Sam Nemeth managed to hoof the ball into the net.

Somehow, Greensburg Central Catholic overcame a shortened bench.

Some way, the Centurions are headed back to the PIAA semifinals.

“It all happened so fast,” said Nemeth, a senior midfielder who provided all the offense GCC needed in a defensively fueled 1-0 victory over Freedom in a Class A quarterfinal game Saturday at Peters Township.

The Centurions (16-4) advance to play rival Shady Side Academy (19-1) in Tuesday’s semifinals at a time and site to be determined. The winner goes to Hershey for the finals.

Both of Freedom’s losses this season were to GCC. The Bulldogs (22-2) had not been shut out since 2016 in a PIAA first-round loss to Mercyhurst Prep.

GCC returns to the semifinals for the seventh time since 2011.

The Centurions and Shady Side Academy will meet for the fifth time in the state semis since 2012. Shady Side edged GCC in the WPIAL championship, 2-1, on Nov. 1.

GCC players worked for possession and tried to stay a play ahead of Freedom from the start.

But GCC did not substitute much because it did not have many backups. The team was missing two players for an undisclosed reason. Coach Ashley Davis would not elaborate on the short bench but said the players could return for the next game.

Nemeth was in position to put back a rebound with 22 minutes, 5 seconds to play in the second half, and she did so from an awkward spot. Playoff goals, as GCC knows, aren’t about aesthetics.

“She put that ball in from an impossible angle,” Davis said. “We put an emphasis on pressuring more in the attacking third and our girls played well defensively.”

Assistant coach Bri Guy said GCC concentrated more on a defensive approach, and it paid off.

GCC held a potent offense in check. Freedom sophomore Renae Mohrbacher came in with more than 60 goals. The Bulldogs had a tough time getting through-balls into space and were stymied on set pieces. Both teams had shots hit posts, and Freedom hit the crossbar.

A game that wasn’t short on opportunities saw GCC sophomore Tatum Gretz take a shot from the left side, near the 10-yard line, that was played by keeper Morgan Schwab. The ball, however, trickled to Schwab’s left and nearly came to rest near the back line.

Who knew the opportunity would produce the only goal on a cold afternoon.

Schwab did not scoop the ball, instead opting staying in place. Nemeth alertly squeezed in the putback.

“I’m not sure how it happened. It was a blur,” Nemeth said. “I expected a defender to maybe kick it out, but it ended up being a happy moment.”

GCC had 10 shots to six for Freedom, the PIAA runner-up last year. The Centurions edged past the Bulldogs in the WPIAL semifinals, 4-3, in overtime. Nemeth had a goal and an assist in that game, as did her sister, Jessica, a junior midfielder.

This game was a stark contrast with an emphasis on containing shooters.

“GCC is a good team, but we had chances but didn’t take advantage of them,” Freedom coach Colin Williams said. “It was a different game than the last time we played them. I thought we should have had a goal before they did. We pushed and pushed.”

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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