WPIAL Girls Soccer 1A Final
Friday, November 1– 4 p.m. – Highmark Stadium
Greensburg Central Catholic (14-3) vs Shady Side Academy (16-1)
PSN Coverage: John Krysinsky (Twitter @pghsoccerscribe) | photography – Ed Thompson (Twitter (@Thompson12foto)
There are a lot of schools that are section rivals who become familiar with each other over the years,
Then there’s Shady Side Academy and Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer teams.
These two schools’ girls soccer programs play each other twice per year in the regular season, then it’s been almost guaranteed that they’ll meet one or two more times in the post-season. At least that’s been the case since Class 1A girls soccer classification came into existence in 2010.
GCC has the edge in the series — winning 15 of 18 regular-season meetings against the Indians and is 6-5 against them in the playoffs — but Shady Side has closed the gap in recent years. GCC the has five titles and the Indians have three, the last in 2016, when the Indians stunned the previously unbeaten Centurians on Eliza Cochran free kick.
GCC won in 2017, defeating Shady Side, 1-0, this time with Sydney Ward scoring the game-winner.
Shady Side’s only loss this season is to GCC — a 2-0 setback Sept. 9. But the Indians returned the favor by winning the return match 3-1, at home.
Both programs in recent years have had its coaches go away on leave, only to return. Ashley Davis returned a few weeks ago from maternity leave, while Bri Guy, in the interim role made some tweaks to not only the Centurions’ formation, but also to its attitude.
“This is the most skilled team we have had since I’ve been here,” Davis said to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently. “Bri really helped to build up a team atmosphere over the summer. They have followed her lead.”
After losing in the WPIAL semifinals a year ago to eventual champion Freedom last year, this GCC squad wasn’t about to let that happen again. The determined bunch rallied for an overtime win over previously unbeaten Freedom (20-1) — the top seed and the defending WPIAL champ and PIAA runner-up. GCC features three seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen — that play as a pretty cohesive unit, that plays through its skilled midfield.
It was Jessica Nemeth who scored the game-winner from her sister Samantha Nemeth to beat Freedom on Monday. Much like against an explosive Freedom, GCC will have to rely on its midfield to keep the ball away against an equally dangerous Shady Side so goalkeeper Lyndsey Szekely will not have to face as much pressure. GCC also features another sister-to-sister combo freshman Sara Felder and junior Sam Felder, connected for a goal in the Freedom win as well.
Shady Side have bounced back nicely from its only loss of the season, that 2-0 defeat in early September at GCC.
On Monday, they allowed an early goal against a formidable Section 2 champion Bentworth, then rolled to a 5-1 win for its 14th consecutive win.
It was Callie Davis who recorded the hat trick in the win.
When it’s not Davis putting goals in the back of the net, she has a lot of support from Melissa Riggins and Gabby Hill-Junke while goaltender Molly Skvorak holds things down in the back.
In the second match-up between the teams this year, Shady Side head coach Mary Lynch moved Hill-Junke from midfield to forward, and it resulted in a pair of goals.
Both teams bring plenty of firepower, but when they get together in playoff matches, often they’re pretty tightly contested matches — and it’s been a set piece or one mistake that could be the difference.
On Friday afternoon at Highmark Stadium, we wouldn’t expect it to be any other way.