East Xtra: Centurions set goals very high

High School Soccer

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Of all the goals set by the Greensburg Central Catholic boys' soccer team, the most talked about is actually fifth on the team's priority list.

The Centurions entered this season with a 50-game section winning streak and a 70-game section unbeaten streak. They have not tied a section game since the 2007 regular-season finale. They have not lost a section game since 2005 when the current freshmen on the roster were in second grade.

Yet when it comes time to setting goals, extending the winning streak falls fifth on the priority list behind winning the section title, winning a WPIAL title, winning a PIAA title and holding all opponents to fewer than 15 goals all season.

Considering the strength of Class A soccer both in the WPIAL and the state, extending the section winning streak might actually be the easiest of the goals.

The Centurions reached the WPIAL finals in 2010. They won a WPIAL championship in 2009. They have won six consecutive outright section titles and went as far as the semifinals in the PIAA tournament during this streak.

"The kids talk about it," coach Tom Sochacki said. "They know it is there, but it is business as usual. Our fifth goal is to keep the streak alive but the kids do know what they are playing for. To be unbeaten for that long is a prideful thing. It has been passed down, especially the seniors, they don't want to be ones who break the streak."

Sochacki is in his second year coaching at Greensburg Central Catholic. As a native of Greensburg, he was well aware of the streak but said it didn't weigh on him during his first season.

One of the goals given priority over extending the streak, is limiting opponents to 15 or fewer goals this season. The team came close last year, allowing a total of 19 goals in a season that included four playoff games as Greensburg Central Catholic reached the WPIAL semifinals and played in a third-place consolation game.

The defense has its work cut out for it as it already allowed two goals in an opening 2-0 loss to Class A powerhouse Seton-LaSalle on the road.

Stopping goals might not be the biggest challenge for Greensburg Central Catholic -- scoring goals could be an issue. Senior forward Jack Fagan, the team's leading returning scorer, suffered a high ankle sprain on his left ankle in the team's final preseason scrimmage. The worst-case scenario has Fagan missing six weeks.

"Now that Jack Fagan is out, we knew scoring would be tough," Sochacki said. "With him being out, we are struggling to score. We have to figure something out, everyone has to chip in. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, learning how to play without him."

Fagan scored 17 goals last season when he also dealt with an ankle sprain, that one on his right leg, that kept him out of games.

Senior Dakota Randolph is a returning starter at outside midfielder and was the second highest returning goal scorer this year. Randolph will have to pick up some of the scoring slack in Fagan's absence as will sophomore forward Adam Tucker, another returning starter.

The defense is led by senior Devon Nguyen, one of the top talents in the WPIAL. The other returning starter on defense is junior sweeper Frank Fratto.

In the midfield senior Justin Nolfi and senior Dan Seamans start alongside Randolph. Greensburg Central plans on rotating between a 3-5-2 and a 3-4-3 formation.

Senior Dave Kossol takes over in net after starting as the junior varsity goalie last year.

Greensburg Central Catholic opened the season ranked No. 2 in WPIAL Class A.

In terms of threats in the section, Sochacki anticipates Serra presenting the biggest challenge to the streak.

"We are looking at Serra the most," Sochacki said. "They have a very good forward, probably one of the top midfielders in the section and a pretty strong defense. They finished third last year but they were young."

hssoccer


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