WPIAL Boys 1A Championship
FINAL: Greensburg Central Catholic 1, Winchester Thurston 0
In a tightly contested match, sometimes it takes a special player to create a special moment that can be the difference.
Greensburg Central Catholic’s Nate Ward did exactly that to lift his team to the WPIAL Boys 1A soccer title, beating Winchester Thurston, 1-0 on Friday evening at Highmark Stadium.
Ward’s highlight reel goal in the 31st minute was the difference, as the Centurians took the rubber match between the two section rivals, with the stakes highest.
It was Greensburg Central Catholic’s fourth overall WPIAL title, and its first since 2009, after numerous runner-up finishes and coaching changes in the past decade.
“We started with this class in 2015, and I wanted to build a strong foundation,” Tyler Solis, GCC’s Head Coach said. “They hadn’t had that much before. They had coaches coming in, and there was no identity. It took four years. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. These boys worked very hard for it.”
ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY
HOW IT HAPPENED
Both teams worked through a feeling out process in what was a pretty evenly played match through 30 minutes.
Then, Ward, with a little help from teammate Mason Fabian, he created some magic for the Centurians.
Ward made a run toward the left side of the box, then played a ball to Fabian, who quickly played the 1-2 back to Ward, who split a pair of Winchester Thurston defenders, with a left, then right move to the edge of the right side of the goal box. With the Bears’ keeper Morgan Graham coming out to cut off Ward’s angle, it appeared there wasn’t much room for the Indiana University commit to get off a quality shot.
That didn’t faze Ward.
“Mason gave me a great give and go there,” Ward said, deflecting the credit. “We really came together as a team. I was thinking, hit it. You’re that close. You just have to test the goalie sometimes. If you miss it, you keep coming.”
“We practiced a lot this week on how to attack Diede (Diederik-Paul Schlingemann), a really good player,” Solis said.”He loves that move. It was left, right. He goes right between two defenders. But when it got to his right foot, I knew he was going to finish it. It was teamwork in getting the ball there, but it was also a great individual effort.”
Winchester continued to struggle to find anything of substance in the final third — but had some moments in the second half where they started to knock on the door. .
Possibly the best chance for the Bears came at the end of a positive build-up through the middle of the box, as a point blank chance was there for freshman Oliver Daboo — but his hard shot went right into the bread basket of GCC keeper Max House.
“We’ve been harping about, making sure we get that shut out. To do it in a stage like this, in the final, against Winchester (Thurston) who we played them twice. Both times before they were low scoring,” Solis said. “It was an excellent job by our defense.”
We focus on ourselves. I believe when we put our talent together, and we start connecting passes, we’re untouchable,” Solis said. “They move the ball, the ball does the work and it’s very difficult to try to catch up to the ball. Other teams, they just wear out. We still had the possession. The boys had the drive to keep pushing forward.”
Greensburg Central will savor this victory, but they’ll also be moving forward and into the PIAA playoffs beginning on Tuesday night, as well Winchester Thurston, who certainly would like some redemption from a tough district final loss.
Who knows, the section rivals may meet again this season.
POST-MATCH INTERVIEW – NATE WARD