The Providence girls’ soccer team has already seen off one Bulldog in New Albany, and believes it can tame another in its bid to make the IHSAA semistate.
The Pioneers will take on Columbus North in its own backyard in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. regional, following a 3-0 sectional championship victory over Corydon last Saturday.
The Bull Dogs have been the stumbling block for Floyd Central for the past three years. But when the Pioneers played them in 2001, they won the first of their two regional titles.
Coach Dave Smith still has fond memories of that game against Columbus North.
“In that match, we were able to win with a remarkable late goal with less than two minutes remaining in the second overtime period on a beautiful assist from Abbey Smith to Jenni Cusick, who then beat the goalkeeper to net the winner and set off a raucous celebration from the frozen PHS fans,” he said.
All of which, he thought, was “eerily similar” to the Pioneers’ last gasp victory over Floyd Central last Thursday, ending the Highlanders’ bid for a fifth straight sectional title.
In that game, Providence’s Leah Mattingly ran some 60 yards down the right wing, keeping her balance while avoiding a couple of strong challenges before delivering a perfectly weighted pass to teammate Casey Marlin. Marlin cut in from the right past Floyd goalkeeper Cassie Sakai and fired home with her left foot with under two minutes remaining in the second half of overtime.
“That’s probably the most remarkable individual play I’ve ever witnessed in high school soccer,” said Smith of Mattingly’s run.
He will be hoping for more of the same against the Bull Dogs Wednesday evening.
Marlin will be aiming to bag her 30th goal of the season and her 60th in her three years at Providence. Already, she has broken the school’s all-time season and career marks. She will be be partnered by seniors Cristian May-Boquiren and Hadley Anderson, and junior Kayla Meisner.
At the back, they will be hoping Mattingly, Kelsey Rogers, Mary Ashley Betz, Erin Wallace and Autumn Meyer in goal can hold off a strong attack, while reinforcements, as against Floyd Central, will come in the shape of Erin Duncan, Miriam Snyder, Caley Marlin, Allie Gillenwater and Haley Corby from midfield.
Some impressive freshmen have also played thier part in the middle going forward this year, most notably Rachel Wells, Kasey Wallace and Katelyn Coopman.
On face value, five-time sectional champion Providence has a better season record (17-1-1) than that of 10-time sectional winner Columbus North (13-5-2).
However, North’s five losses have come to either top 20 opponents from Indiana and Kentucky (three in total), or to honorable mentions (two). It also tied 1-1 with reigning Kentucky state champion, Sacred Heart.
“One reason they’re not winning as many is that they’ve ventured out,” said Smith. “Coach Mike Spock (who played at Jeffersonville) has upgraded his schedule tremendously.”
The Bull Dogs have their own Casey Marlin in junior Kayleigh Steigerwalt, who has notched 32 goals in 16 games this season, and who Floyd Central knows all about as she scored the lone goal in North’s victory over the Highlanders last year.
Other North players to keep an eye out for are freshman Kenadie Carlson (10 goals), her sister Kelsie (14 assists), Vanessa Staublin (10 goals) and sophomore Morgan Proffitt.
“We saw Columbus North in the District 5 tourney in August and they looked every bit as strong as last year,” said Smith. “They’re very fluid, skilled and athletic. They have one of the best strikers in the state, but so do we.
“We will compete with them as we have with so many strong teams throughout our season and we have no plans to bunker down in the box defensively.
“Our goal is to shake off any nagging injuries and get our legs under us. It was a rewarding yet grueling sectional run last week. There is no pressure on us so it should be a fun experience.”
The winner will move onto the Evansville Harrison Semistate, where it plays the winner of Washington (18-1-1) or Bloomington North (17-3).
It’s a place Providence has been before.
After beating Jennings County to claim its second regional championship in 2003, it went on to beat Castle and reach the semistate championship (the final eight), where it lost to Bloomington South.
Smith said it’s been an “incredible ride” this season, one he hopes doesn’t end Wednesday.
“We’re enjoying our time together and would like nothing better than to take one more bus trip to Evansville on Saturday,” he said.