Westmoreland County girls soccer notebook: GCC goes on field trip

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Wednesday, October 6, 2021 | 4:10 PM


As Greensburg Central Catholic prepared to play No. 1 Springdale in a key rematch, practice was replaced by something more fun: a field trip.

The defending WPIAL champion and state runner-up Centurions took a day to spend some time on the “Hill” last week as they watched Seton Hill host IUP in a matchup that featured four GCC grads — IUP’s Sam Nemeth, Jess Nemeth and Sam Felder, and Abby Skatell of Seton Hill.

“I am really into culture. It’s so important, so we wanted to do something to encompass the team bonding idea,” said GCC coach Olivia Kruger, whose husband is Seton Hill women’s coach Zak Kruger. “It was easy to do. We have a lot of games left so it’s nice to get the girls together outside of practice.”

The Krugers are expecting their first child in November.

Such team bonding events are often reserved for the preseason, but GCC saw the need to escape the daily grind for an afternoon in the sun — and some good soccer — all while in mid-season stride.

“We can watch and see some things we can learn and work on,” said junior Sara Felder, who led GCC with 19 goals through seven games. “It is a nice way to bond with teammates.”

The Centurions (6-1, 5-1), who have regained their No. 1 ranking after defeating Springdale, 4-2, to avenge an earlier loss, have blended five seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and a budding crop of six freshmen to stay among the top teams in WPIAL Class A.

The team was averaging 9 goals per game, having posted 14 twice against Riverview, 13 against Jeannette and eight when it played Freedom.

“There are a lot of good freshmen,” senior forward Tatum Gretz said. “But we’re all coming together. I feel like I have been a leader before, but I knew I had to have a bigger role, especially after we had such a successful season.”

Gretz, a Villanova commit for what seems like forever, kicked in 11 goals this season to raise her career total to 86.

Three freshmen who have made a significant impact are forward Riley Kerr, defender Jillian Botti and Victoria Walters, another back-line player.

Kerr had nine goals.

“The upperclass girls are like older sisters to the younger ones,” Sara Felder said. “Everyone has bonded so well. It’s a sisterly bond.”

Felder also is a Division I prospect.

Springdale had topped GCC, 5-1, earlier in the season to snap the Centurions’ 18-game regular-season winning streak.

But GCC recovered to win five straight. Another WPIAL title and PIAA run look to once again be strong possibilities for GCC.

“We know there is a target on our backs,” Kruger said. “We’re trying to find that cohesiveness. Everyone is learning about each other. It’s about finding out what our best combinations are.”

Norwin banged up

With the amount of injuries and player rotations Norwin has done this season, you might expect the Knights to be struggling to stay in the playoff race.

But it has been quite the contrary for the team, which has navigated the absences and lineup changes.

Injuries have mounted at such a high rate, the team has had trouble keeping track of them.

“With all we have been through, I am so proud of our girls,” said first-year coach Diane Metzger, a Norwin alum whose team won five straight after a rare section-opening loss with all five coming via shutout. “They are learning a new system through all of it and that is a lot to absorb.”

Norwin moved to 8-2 overall and 5-2 in Section 3-4A after it was swept by upstart Latrobe to close out September but rebounded with wins over Plum and Fox Chapel.

The 1-0 home loss to Latrobe was tough to take because it hindered Norwin’s chances at making a run at the section title. Could the Knights have exacted revenge on the Wildcats in their second meeting with a lineup at full strength?

“When you have that many injuries, you’re playing girls in spots they might not otherwise be in,” Metzger said. “We were already thin, then we lost four more girls.”

All told, Norwin had seven regular players out at one time or another in junior Alyssa Aquilio, senior Natalie Barkley, junior Ema Kaufman, senior Jenna McGuinness, freshman Mila Ostovich and senior Paloma Swankler. Swankler missed the first Latrobe game with an ankle injury and left the second game against the Wildcats with another lower leg ailment.

She came back, however, to score against Plum and Fox Chapel.

Norwin had to dress its entire junior varsity team for the second Latrobe game.

Cernuto in, Fabery out

Southmoreland welcomed back standout junior forward Olivia Cernuto on Monday as she showed no rust after missing four games with a knee injury, scoring a hat trick in a 4-3 win over Yough.

But the Scotties played their second straight game without another talented junior in Kendall Fabery. The Cleveland State commit sustained a concussion in a 1-0 loss to Mt. Pleasant on Sept. 25.

“We tried to be more offensive with (Fabery) out,” Yough coach Dann Appolonia said. “When you take away a player like that, it changes what you can do on the attack.”

Postseason update

The WPIAL will use a similar format to the one it implemented last fall for the soccer playoffs, league executive director Amy Scheuneman said. Higher seeds will play home games for the first and second rounds, “provided the school’s facility meets minimum requirements to host the contest,” which refers to turf, seating, etc.

Neutral sites will be considered for the semifinals, while the championships are set to return to Highmark Stadium at Station Square in Pittsburgh on Nov. 5-6.

Playoff clinchings

Five Westmoreland teams had clinched WPIAL playoff berths through Monday’s action. They are Norwin and Latrobe in Class 4A, Franklin Regional in 3A and Mt. Pleasant and Southmoreland in 2A.

Rankings

There was movement in the TribLive HSSN rankings this week. Latrobe jumped from No. 5 to No. 2 in Class 4A, while Franklin Regional moved from No. 5 to No. 4 in 3A, and Greensburg Central Catholic regained the No. 1 spot in Class A after a 4-2 win over Springdale.

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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