Re-posted for Pittsburgh Sports Report from my story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Freedom coach Colin Williams has been coaching soccer for more than 25 years, so after guiding his team to a 1-0 upset of No. 2-seed Greensburg Central Catholic in the WPIAL Class A boys quarterfinals Wednesday, he couldn’t help but contain his excitement.
“I’m so proud of these kids. I couldn’t wish for a better group of players to coach,” said Williams, who coaches Freedom’s boys and girls teams that remain in the playoffs.
Nych Baker scored the game’s lone goal in the 64th minute after the seventh-seeded Bulldogs (13-6-1) withstood pressure from Greensburg Central Catholic (16-2) in the first half and in the early portions of the second.
By knocking off a perennial title contender, Freedom advanced to the WPIAL seminfinals for the first time.
“We knew that we had to play a counter-attack, and that’s our game,” Williams said. “But we did what we had to do. We had our chances and got back into the game in the second half.”
The Centurions unleashed eight shots and had seven first-half corner kicks that kept Bulldogs senior goalkeeper Jordan Herzog busy throughout the first half.
“They are a great team. They pressed on us pretty good,” Williams said.
“Jordan kept us in the game. He was outstanding all night for us.”
Herzog finished with 13 saves, including a pair of highlight-reel, diving stops on dangerous strikes from Mark Thalman in the eighth minute and another from Luke Mort early in the second half
As the second half progressed, the Bulldogs began to limit the Centurions chances to long-distance shots.
“We got down on ourselves as we weren’t able to capitalize and get a goal,” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “It kind of frustrated us.
“We began to lose some of that confidence we usually play with and we were wondering why we’re not scoring.”
In the 64th minute, the Bulldogs cleared a ball that bounced to Baker just outside the box on the right side.
Baker recognized Greensburg Central Catholic goalkeeper Stephen Kendrish was coming off his line to make a play and chipped it over Kendrish for the game’s only goal.
“It was a great goal, just what we needed,” Williams said. “We have all kinds of players that can score for us, but Nych was able to get it over the keeper.”
The Centurions immediately followed with a dangerous ball in the box. They continued to bring pressure until the final minutes, including five second-half corner kicks and three free kicks from close range, but the Bulldogs held off each challenge.
“We really couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net today,” Solis said. “Whether it was Freedom’s defense or us getting in our own head, it was unfortunate.
“This was a great group of seniors that we have. They won a lot of games. Scored a lot of goals. To come up short, it was hard for them.”
WILLIAMS’ LEGACY ON WESTERN PA HS SOCCER AND HIS “SEMI-RETIREMENT”…
Williams has been quite a figure in Western Pennsylvania high school soccer for three decades.
He started what would be come two highly successful soccer programs — Seneca Valley and West Allegheny.
The 64-year old English native, who says he’s semi-retired, has jumped back into coaching in a big way. As the coach of both the Freedom boys and girls soccer teams, making for one of the most unusual fall sagas in WPIAL sports.
“I do get some headaches sometimes, and I make a joke with everybody that I go see my psychiatrist Wednesdays because people do think I’m crazy,” Williams said earlier this month to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.