Shady Side Academy shuts out rival GCC to reach PIAA title game

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | 9:27 PM

Melissa Riggins scored the icebreaker for Shady Side Academy on a frigid night, and Krystyna Rytel provided the insurance.

And for the second consecutive season, Shady Side Academy ousted Greensburg Central Catholic in the PIAA Class A girls soccer semifinals.

Riggins scored on a free kick in the 29th minute, and Rytel tallied a pair of second-half goals to help Shady Side Academy blank GCC, 3-0, Tuesday night at Hampton.

The Indians will try to win their first state title when they play District 3's Camp Hill in the finals at 11 a.m. Saturday in Hershey.

The win helped the Indians (16-4) exact revenge from a 1-0 loss to the Centurions (17-4) in the WPIAL final.

Shady Side Academy players celebrated by taking a selfie together on the field after the game.

“It's amazing,” Shady Side Academy coach Leah Powers said about a second consecutive trip to the PIAA final. “They deserve it more than any team I've ever coached. They work heard. They love each other, and we're all thrilled to go to Hershey.”

Riggins kicked the ball from the 20-yard line and tucked it in the top-left corner of the net over an outstretched Bella Skatell to give the Indians a 1-0 advantage. Rytel scored in the 45th minute and the 61st minute.

Powers said she learned in the WPIAL championship that her team needed to attack from the outset to reverse the result.

“We came out with a different formation, because we knew we had to give them something different,” Powers said. “Last time, we came out so defensive. This time we knew we had to come out and attack, attack and attack some more. We talked through it today. I told them we were going to put an extra girl up top, and it did the trick.”

The teams split the season series 2-2 with each winning once in section play and in the postseason. GCC holds a 20-6 advantage over the Indians since 2010, but Shady Side has eliminated the Centurions four times in the postseason.

Rytel scored off a corner kick by Nina Singh and scored from in close on a ball that deflected off several players before settling in front of her.

The Centurions were looking to clinch their sixth trip to the state final since 2005. Their best scoring opportunities came in the first half when they had five corner kicks in the first 23 minutes, but did not register a shot on goal on any of them. The best scoring threat for the Centurions came when a shot by Sarah Orndoff deflected the right post in the fourth minute.

Skatell made several nice stops in the final 20 minutes of the first half before Riggins' free kick goal. She stopped a hard shot from Rytel in the 21st minute, smothered a free kick from 40 yards by Riggins in the 25th minute and stole the ball off of Sophia McMahon's foot right in the penalty box after a mad scramble that saw the ball deflect of several players in the 28th minute. Skatell finished with a dozen saves.

“Bella did an awesome job back there tonight,” GCC coach Ashley Davis said. “She really gave it her all, and unfortunately we just came out on the wrong end of it.”

For the Centurions, a return trip to the PIAA semifinals and a WPIAL championship capped a strong season, given they lost a large senior class from last year that included All-American Bailey Cartwright, who is now at Notre Dame. GCC will graduate four seniors — Keeley Maloney, Alexa Schwerha, Sydney Ward and Chelsea Boyle.

“If we want to split hairs, we did better than the team last year because we won WPIALs,” Davis said. “I think a lot of people doubted us and, even though this didn't end up where we wanted it to, it was a success. We had a lot of new players and some girls on the team who didn't even play soccer before this season. The fact that we made it this far is a huge accomplishment. It's just a shame that it ended the way that it did.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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