Pioneers one step away from history

(Published in today’s Evening News & Tribune)

Providence players congratulate Casey Marlin (10) after she scored the lone goal during the Pioneers' 1-0 victory over Evansville Mater Dei at the Class A Evansville Harrison Semistate on Saturday. Photo by Steve Koopman (go.skactionpix.com)

Ever since it was revealed last year that Indiana’s postseason soccer tournament was to be divided into two classes, it was clear who locally was going to benefit.

However, it’s one thing to be provided the opportunity; quite another to seize it.

No. 1 Providence girls have been seizing with relish this fall, a quality team unit that has had just one main goal — to go all the way.

The Lady Pioneers steamrolled through a lopsided sectional; put a decent side in the shape of Heritage Hills to the sword quite easily in regional; and took full advantage of the morsels that came their way in Saturday’s two semistate games  at the Roberts Stadium in Evansville as the going got tougher.

Your heart would go out for Covenant Christian’s goalie after her first half blooper gave Providence a crucial lead and a shot of confidence at a time when they weren’t playing to their full potential, and could have even conceded only for an Autumn Meyer point blank save.

However, there’s no time for sentiment. You make full use of such gifts, defend well and put the encounter to bed with a goal from your top scorer Casey Marlin with just 1:07 on the clock to finish out 2-0.

Then you face a strong locally supported team in the shape of  No. 6 Evansville Mater Dei. Of the 32 sectional girls’ winners in last season’s all-encompassing IHSAA tournament, only two – Providence and Mater Dei — contested in the new Class A this year.

Not a problem. The Lady Pioneers contained the speedy Lady Wildcats’ attack with relative comfort (I don’t remember a single troubling shot on Providence), you wear them down with your fitness, and  then watch your prowling attacker (Marlin again) follow up a loose ball from a Leah Mattingly 25 yarder.

With just 3:37 left, you give scarce time to respond and you win your first semistate championship to add to six sectional and three regional titles.

Now, the Pioneers are just one game away from an historic Class A state soccer title, but they will have to overcome a tough obstacle in the shape of No. 5 Mishawaka Marian at Kuntz Stadium  in Indianapolis this Saturday (10:30 a.m.)

Providence (20-0-2) has now scored 28 postseason goals in six games without reply, living up to its “Brick Force” moniker.

In fact, the team has had 11 consecutive shutouts since its 2-2 tie with South Oldham.

Marlin has bagged 11 goals in postseason, finding the back of the net in every matchup. The senior goal getter now has 36 for the season, and 95 for her high school career.

However, the Pioneers and their impressive statistics face a stern test when they come up against Marian, an outfit situated at the opposite end of Indiana next to South Bend and Notre Dame.

The No.5 Knights (18-2-1) overcame a strong No. 2 West Lafayette by a 2-1 scoreline in overtime, having played a large chunk of the game in defensive mode.

Those who will be on Coach Dave Smith’s radar will be top scorer Gabrielle Veldman, who notched the team’s opener in the seventh minute, and her sister, freshman Denise Veldman, who scored the game winner in overtime.

The Knights were semi-state runners-up to Portage in 2006, and have won six sectional and four regional titles, while its varsity boys’ soccer team made it to the state final four in 2008, losing to Zionsville.

Either Mishawaka Marian (enrollment 676) or Providence (460) is about to win its first ever soccer state title, and the inaugural Class A girls’ championship to boot.

I know who I’m going with!

By the way, if you can’t make it to the game on Saturday, you can watch it live on IHSAAtv.org.

 

Providence path to the final

Rising Sun Sectional

Switzerland County 4-0

Southwestern (Hanover) 12-0

Rising Sun 5-0

Providence Regional

Heritage Hills 4-0

Evansville Harrison Semistate

Covenant Christian 2-0

Evansville Mater Dei 1-0

State Finals Schedule

When: Saturday, Oct. 29
Where: Kuntz Stadium, 1502 West 16th Street, Indianapolis

Class A (girls): #5 Mishawaka Marian (18-2-1) vs. #1 Providence (20-0-2), 10:30 a.m.
Class A (boys): #1 FW Canterbury (17-1-4)  vs. #2 Evansville Mater Dei (17-5-1), 1 p.m.
Class 2A (girls): #2 Hamilton Southeastern (20-0-2) vs. #1 Carmel (21-0-1), 3:30 p.m.
Class 2A (boys): Crown Point (15-6-2) vs. #16 Columbus North (18-2-2), 6.p.m.


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