Strong freshman class boosts Greensburg Central Catholic soccer

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | 9:22 PM


An influx of freshmen can raise a number of concerns for soccer coaches at the high school level.

While the issues aren’t always pressing, they are worth examining at some point – in many cases, sooner than later.

Are they equipped to handle the varsity game?

Is it too early to play them?

Can they blend in well with established the upperclassmen?

At Greensburg Central Catholic, a four-player crop of freshmen – there’s a total of eight ninth graders on the roster — is making its presence known right away for the top-ranked Centurions (8-2-1).

They have answered any questions coach Tyler Solis had.

“We’re blessed having that kind of talent come to us,” Solis said. “They learn our system in the middle school program and know what we do when they get up here.”

Solis has a number of key returnees from last year’s WPIAL Class A runner-up team back, but he has been able to feather the nest with the younger players to keep the program strong both now and later.

The freshmen have more in common than inexperience and promise. They also share diminutive roster specs.

Carlo Denis is all of 5-foot-3 and 130 pounds but is second on the team with eight goals. He’s been an offensive complement to senior Indiana University recruit Nate Ward (11 goals) and is on the fast track to developing into a Ward-like scorer.

“The seniors have helped us and showed us how we need to play,” Denis said. “They’ve showed us how fast we have to play. Getting past the defense is tough, but we’re getting better.”

Ward, a fourth-year starter, along with third-year goalkeeper Patrick Brewer, Tom Salley and Ethan Boyle are key seniors.

Solis likes the rapid progression he’s seen in Denis.

“He’s been the real deal,” Solis said. “He works for the ball and holds his own. He’s physical. He loves it.”

Two other key freshmen are midfielder Kyler Miller (5-2, 105) and defender Max Szekely (5-9, 130).

“When you have freshmen, you’re not always sure if they’ll be ready,” Solis said. “But they all have adjusted well. You look at them and they’re not big kids, but they love to play the game and they know where to be on the field in our system.”

Freshman Jake Gretz comes off the bench, Solis said, to provide a “change of pace” or a “spark.” Gretz is a talented ball-handler.

Martin Kerr, who is from Scotland, coaches the middle school program. Solis said he has players ready to open the door to varsity soccer, excelling in both style and substance.

“We get a pass to the middle of the field and find ourselves from there,” Solis said. “We like to be the ones who set the tempo.”

Solis said the Centurions, whose losses came to Class AA North Catholic and the Kiski School, are a blend of upper and underclassmen who are learning together as they go.

“North Catholic really was an eye opener to the freshmen as to how fast the game is played,” Solis said.

The team also has four juniors and three sophomores.

“We have seniors with experience and they have shown the freshmen what to expect,” Solis said. “They come in and are expected to play at a certain level. They see how you’re supposed to act. We don’t mouth off to refs. We keep our jerseys tucked in. There is a way you act as a GCC soccer player.”

A sophomore also has been a key contributor in Ringgold transfer Mason Fabean. Solis calls him a “target forward.”

“He’s a big, strong kid who can hold onto the ball,” Solis said.

A game to watch will be Monday when GCC plays host to No. 2 Winchester Thurston (9-1) in Carbon.

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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