North Xtra: Shady Side's run for soccer title falls short
Shady Side's Zoe Schoen, left, heads the ball above Greensburg Central Catholic's Cassie Sauter in the PIAA semifinals.
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During the regular season, Shady Side Academy was the second-best team in WPIAL Class A Section 4.
In the postseason the Indians showed that they could be considered possibly the second-best team in the entire state.
The Indians made a run to the WPIAL semifinals and the PIAA semifinals before bowing out to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Greensburg Central Catholic both times. Unfortunately for the Indians, the Centurions happen to play in the same section.
The Indians wrapped up the regular season with a 12-4-1 overall record, 10-2 in section play -- with those section losses to guess who?
After the regular season the Shady Side administration decided to replace coach Caswell Nilsen with James Meara, the boys soccer coach.
Coaching the boys' team, Meara guided the Indians to back-to-back WPIAL Class AA postseason appearances, an impressive feat considering the team is the only boys' soccer program who plays up.
He also guided the Indians to their first PIAA semifinal trip in program history. Not simply happy with being in the final four in the state, Shady Side Academy went out and played arguably its best game of the season.
The Indians controlled a majority of the possession against Greensburg Central Catholic and held a 3-1 lead with 12 minutes to play in regulation, but the Centurions mounted a furious rally to tie the game and ultimately win in a shootout.
It was one of the few times this season someone challenged Greensburg Central Catholic, a program who outscored its postseason competition 42-8 with the Indians accounting for four of those goals allowed in the two playoff meetings between the section rivals
"Both occasions we played as the better team," Meara said of the two postseason meetings with Greensburg Central Catholic. "For all the talent they have, to play better than them for two games, I am really proud of our girls. Unfortunately, we fell short."
Meara took over as head coach on Oct. 16 with the playoffs set to start the following Saturday.
"We tried a new formation, a new shape," Meara said. "We kind of tried to 'dumb down' some things, give the girls less to worry about."
That in turn gave other teams more to worry about.
Junior forward Maggie Scott has led the team in scoring since she was a freshman. This year she scored 20 goals during the regular season.
"We have Maggie Scott and a lot of the onus was on getting her the ball and letting her make things happen," Meara said. "I wanted to spread the ball around. We have quality players everywhere."
That in turn got other players involved in goal scoring and also gave Scott more opportunities. She scored 15 goals in the playoffs, including three against Greensburg Central Catholic in the playoffs. She had not scored against the Centurions since her freshman year.
The Indians stepped up defensively in the postseason, too. It shut out South Allegheny and Fairview and held Bentworth and Sewickley Academy to one goal. It allowed only 10 goals in seven playoff games.
"We tried to close things up defensively," Meara said. "We wanted to make things more compact and put more pressure on other teams in the playoffs, we wanted to have two or three girls around the ball."
Meara was familiar with most of the players when he took over prior to the postseason.
Senior midfielders Lia Winter and Holly Stewart as well as junior goalie Olivia Cochran play on his cup team in the spring.
"I knew there was a lot of talent with this team," Meara said. "I knew what we had."
That talent translated into a historic postseason run for the Indians.
"You couldn't have asked for anything more," Meara said. "We lost to Greensburg Central but had the satisfaction knowing we were seven minutes away from a state final.
"The seniors will all go out knowing they made history."
First Published November 21, 2012 12:00 am