With teammates hobbled by injuries, Ward takes on added role for Greensburg C.C. boys

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Thursday, November 8, 2018 | 5:09 PM


When two teammates went down with ankle injuries in Tuesday’s PIAA first-round soccer playoff game, Greensburg Central Catholic’s Nate Ward did not become alarmed.

Not that the junior forward would.

Iroquois came back to close a three-goal deficit to one early in the second half before GCC escaped with a 3-2 win.

“I was hoping it was just a bruise,” Ward said of injuries to starters Luke Mort and Rico Ciccarelli, who went down before halftime with GCC up 2-0. “I think the whole team was worried about them. We don’t have many numbers. We slowed down at the end and gave up a couple goals, but we stayed strong defensively and left with a win.”

GCC didn’t practice Wednesday as coach Tyler Solis gave the Centurions (18-2) a maintenance day. Mort and Ciccarelli were scheduled to get MRIs.

Their status for Saturday’s 1 p.m. quarterfinal against Seton LaSalle (19-4) at Peters Township is sketchy, but Mort thinks he will be able to go.

GCC, however banged up and shaken it is, can take solace — or is it, Solis? — in the fact it has Ward, a canny scorer and distributor for the Centurions.

Ward is a heads-up attacker who always seems to be around the net, ready to strike or make an extra setup.

“His role has been critical all year,” Solis said. “He has a lot of responsibility not only going forward but defensively on our team. Being able to play on both sides of the ball and do it for 80 minutes is what makes him so successful.

“He is good with both feet, technically sound, has a good physical presence winning balls in the air or ground, and his engine, he’s going for 80 minutes.”

Mort, a senior forward and Pitt recruit, leads GCC with 35 goals. Ward is a close second with 25 scores and 11 assists.

“Obviously, Luke gets a lot of attention as he should,” Solis said. “But it leaves that late run for Ward, which he loves to make with or without the ball.”

Seton LaSalle gave GCC problems in the WPIAL semifinals with its size and physical approach. GCC pulled out a 2-1 win in a matchup underscored by takedowns and yellow cards.

Ward had a goal and an assist.

“We all got pretty banged up from these last few games,” Ward said. “Rico plays a big roll in our offense and attack. With him out, I will most likely be going to goal a bit more.

“(Seton La Salle) marked up on (defense) pretty good, but I don’t think we had our best game on offense. All three goals came from set pieces. It’s just going to come down to who wants it more.”

Ward scored with 22 seconds left in regulation against Avonworth in the WPIAL championship game. GCC went on to lose in penalty kicks at Highmark Stadium.

“Nate is one of the craftiest players I’ve played with,” Mort said. “He has everything to take him to the next level, and he runs the show in the middle and controls the game both offensively and defensively.”

Soccer has been an active ingredient in the Ward family for years. Nate and his three sisters have more in common than vibrant smiles. His siblings both play for Division I programs: Sydney is a freshman at Akron, while Sarah is a junior at St. Francis (Pa.).

“A few years back, Sarah scored the game-winner in the WPIAL final and Sydney led her team to a WPIAL championship last year,” Nate said. “With them setting the bar pretty high, my little sister, Natalie, and I have a lot to live up to but we are ready for the challenges.

“We would beat Sydney and Sarah in 2-vs.-2 any day.”

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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