FINAL: Shady Side Academy 2, Greensburg Central Catholic 1
Led by a pair of first half goals from Melissa Riggins and Gabby Hill-Junkie, Shady Side Academy defeated section rival Greensburg Central Central Catholic, 2-1 to win its fourth WPIAL Class 1A title in a battle of the two schools that have dominated the past decade in this classification.
Riggins set up Hill-Junkie’s tally in the 17th minute, then added a volley that pushed the lead to 2-0. Greensburg Central Catholic made some adjustments with its second half line-up, cut the deficit in half, but Shady Side held on for the win in the opening match of a tripleheader.
“It feels great,” Mary Lynch, Shady Side’s Head Coach, said. “I am so proud of this group of girls.
Shady Side Academy are now catching up to Greensburg Central Catholic now in the overall race for WPIAL titles, as GCC holds a 6-4 edge since Girls 1A classification came into existence. Freedom’s title won in 2018, was the lone exception.
ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY
HOW IT HAPPENED
Shady Side came out looking to score from the beginning of the match, with its junior playmaking midfielder Melissa Riggins driving a shot from just inside the box in the second minute.
GCC, with its skilled midfielders, looked comfortable in possession in the center of the pitch, but all efforts to penetrate the attacking third were turned away repeatedly in the first half.
Most of the pressure though in the early stages of the match continued to come from Shady Side.
“That was our goal, to put pressure on them early,” Lynch added. “The first half, we possessed the ball really well. That was some of the best we played this year.”
Riggins broke into the left side of the box, then sent a ball through the middle that somehow made its way all the way over to Gabby Hill-Junkie breaking in behind the GCC’s last defender.
Hill-Junkie had plenty of time and ample space to slot through the match’s first goal in the 19th minute.
Then, Riggins did her thing from outside the box –gliding in a shot from 23 yards to double the Shady Side lead in the 34th minute.
The best GCC could do in the first half was settle for a long distance shot from Samantha Nemeth has room to shoot — and nearly fits it under the bar — but just misses.
The second half, the tide of the match turned a bit — as Greensburg made some line-up adjustments, and with a sense of urgency, started to play a bit more direct.
After a few decent advances, the Centurians cut the lead in half on an opportunistic moment after a long free kicks into box saw a free for all with Bethany Winnor getting to the ball first, beating Shady Side GK Molly Skvorak to pokes the ball into the open net to cut the lead in half.
GCC continued to push for chances, but Shady Side’s back line and midfield tightened things up in the process.
“In the end, they were pressuring us, Greensburg had some chances. All we asked from them was to leave it all out there,” Lynch said. “We expected them to come out with more firepower. But our defensive did a great job of shutting them down.”
Shady Side had a few chances late in the match to put it away for good. Riggins found herself in the goal box with the ball at her feet, but her effort to push the ball past GCC’s keeper was denied on the goal line by GCC’s center back Natalie Ward.