East Xtra: Greensburg Central Catholic battles its way to another title

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For their second consecutive November trip to Hershey, the Greensburg Central Catholic girls soccer team kept the routine the same.

Everything from a 6 p.m. Thursday night practice to dinner at Olive Garden was kept as much like last season as possible.

Then on Friday the Centurions (21-2) delivered a repeat performance, capturing their second consecutive PIAA Class A championship with a 2-1 win against Southern Columbia.

While everything looked the same, it felt different for senior Malea Fabean.

As medals were draped around her teammates necks the sweet feeling of winning a state championship as a junior was now somewhat of a bittersweet feeling.

"It started to set in after we won and we were getting our medals that I won't be playing with these girls who I have been playing with for four years," Fabean said. "It made me sad."

Over the last four years Fabean and her teammates have filled up trophy cases and rewritten record books.

Along with the two state championships there were two WPIAL titles and three section titles. The seniors only lost nine games in their careers and only four during the past three seasons.

The individual feats are just as remarkable. Senior forward Frannie Crouse finishes her career as the state's all-time leader in goals scored with 208. Fabean is the all-time state leader in career assists with 118. Fabean also scored 152 goals, becoming the only player in state history with more than 100 goals and 100 assists in a career.

"What stands out the most from the past four years, if you ask anybody on the team, they will tell you our individual accomplishments are just the result of a strong team and a testament to how dedicated every player is and how hard they work," coach Ashley Shasko said.

"The individual accomplishments are team accomplishments as far as I'm concerned."

The seniors on the team are Crouse, Fabean, defender Deanna Dicesare and back-up goalie Neeka Matthews. Crouse, Fabean and Dicesare are team captains.

There was always pressure on Crouse, a Penn State recruit, and Fabean, a Pitt recruit, to bring championships to the program and they delivered. They both came to the program with lofty reputations through youth soccer and they did nothing through their four-year careers to diminish that.

The pressure for a second state championship increased after a surprising upset loss to Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL finals.

After the upset loss in the WPIAL finals, Shasko said, "[The senior class] has definitely taken the program to the next level. From when they started as freshmen, they have definitely made a name for themselves. I want nothing more for them than to close out their careers with a win."

The seniors did just that but it was anything but easy. Greensburg Central Catholic found itself in an unusual position, trailing 1-0 at halftime in the state final.

The Centurions had dominated the first half but Southern Columbia was able to score on its first shot.

"We knew we needed to continue to do the little things right," Shasko said. "We pushed Malea forward to give us a dual threat and I knew between Malea and Frannie, one of them would get one in."

Fifteen minutes into the second half it was Crouse doing what she has done more than anybody else in WPIAL or PIAA history -- score a goal. Crouse's equalizer swung momentum and with 7:26 left to play in regulation Crouse struck again with the game-winner.

The graduations of Crouse and Fabean will leave huge shoes to fill next season.

"I can't wait to see what they do in college," Shasko said. "I am so proud of them. I know I will continue to follow them. They are on to their next challenge; I am ready to see them tackle it."

The talent pipeline at Greensburg Central Catholic is hardly running dry. Junior goalie Olivia Binda has 41 career wins and 20 career shutouts.

After the transfer of third-leading scorer Italia Biondi to Penn-Trafford before this season, freshman Bailey Cartwright stepped up and scored 24 goals and added 25 assists.

Meanwhile, Frannie Crouse's younger sister, Colby, had six goals and 14 assists. It was Colby Crouse who scored what would be the game-winner in the PIAA semifinals against Shady Side Academy.

Colby Crouse and the other returning players will have higher expectations as the bar has been raised incredibly high at the program now. She has her sister and the rest of the seniors to thank for that.

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