Carrying the banner for southern Indiana soccer

Carrying the banner for southern Indiana

Providence aims to win the inaugural Indiana Class A State soccer crown tomorrow (Saturday) at Kuntz Stadium in Indianapolis when it takes on Mishawaka Marian.

Providence girls’ coach Dave Smith said he believes the school is “carrying the banner” for southern Indiana soccer when it attempts to win the inaugural Class A state title against Mishawaka Marian at Kuntz Stadium in Indianapolis tomorrow (10.30 a.m.).

“Obviously, many people do not care for Providence, in large part because they think we’re all wealthy people, which is ridiculous, but a public assumption by many,” said Smith.

“It is my hope that folks can put that angst aside and realize that the Net-Surfers (girls’ club of which Smith is director of coaching) is an organization made up largely of kids who are not headed to Providence.

“We are all part of the southern Indiana soccer family, and I hope those folks can find it in their heart to cheer for their own, locally grown soccer players — who just happen to be wearing navy blue this weekend — to bring home a title for all of us who love this game.”

Providence has never won a state title in any sport, despite coming close in football, softball and volleyball.

So to win tomorrow would be a landmark, possibly paving the way for more titles in various sports, according to Smith, who’s hoping his 13th year as coach at the school will indeed be a very lucky one.

“It will break the stigma and set the psychological tone that we can, indeed, win it all,” he said. “For our soccer program (which has won six sectional and three regional titles), it would be an honor for the girls but I really don’t see it changing us very much. For example, I don’t see kids flocking to our doors because of this, nor do I see kids who had originally planned to attend other schools opting to come our way as a result of the success of the girls’ soccer program.”

People, should, however, flock to see this current Providence (20-0-2) team if they can. (It will be streamed live on IHSAAtv.org.) The Lady Pioneers have now scored 28 postseason goals in six games without reply. Some 11 of those came from senior Casey Marlin, who has scored in every game. In fact, she now has 36 for the season, and 95 for her high school career.

The team has had 11 consecutive shutouts since its 2-2 tie with South Oldham. The “Brick Force” nicknamed outfit comprises an almost impenetrable defense, including goalie Autumn Meyer, Leah Mattingly, Kelsey Rogers, Erin Wallace and Maryashly Betz.

Midfield is also doing its job splendidly, with Erin Duncan and Kasey Wallace working well along with Lauren Holland, Rachel Wells, Katelyn Koopman, Alyssa Jones and Katie Barron.

Marlin’s partner in crime up front is tenacious freshman attacker, Sarah Posante, and others playing their part in the Pioneers’ success this fall include Michelle Knear, Allie Gillenwater, Kathleen Wiles, Jordan Reger, Gabi Wixon and Kelsea Bedan.

However, the northern Indiana No.5 Mishawaka Marian (18-2-1) – who beat  No. 2 West Lafayette 2-1 in the semistate final – will be a tough nut to crack this Halloween weekend.

Ones to watch are Gabrielle Veldman, top scorer with 32 goals, her sister, freshman Denise Veldman, and midfielders Shannon Hendricks and Maggie Hartnagel.

“South Bend St Joseph’s won the overall title last year and they are only four or five miles apart,” said Smith. “My guess is there is a strong Notre Dame influence on this Marian team, and Notre Dame’s women’s team won the NCAA championship last fall, so I’m sure they are well coached.”

He added that at this point in the tournament, there isn’t a lot of difference between teams.

“All are quality sides,” he said. “Probably the biggest factors that separate one from the other are defense, effective team shape and ball possession, and having that ‘one special player’ who can score against quality opposition. Based on that, I sincerely believe we have a real chance to compete and win against our opponent this weekend.”

It’s been an interesting week for Smith, with the abundance of communication flowing the school’s way turning it into what he describes as “a bit of a circus.”

“I cannot imagine what the Super Bowl is like,” he joked. “But, then again, I doubt if those teams have coaches who wash their own pinnies and complete all the communication with the governing bodies of the competition, as do our local high school coaches. It’s all good and completely worth it for the kids, but it’s very time consuming, particularly when soccer is not my ‘real’ job.”

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