By GREG MENGELT
INDIANAPOLIS — For 646 minutes of the postseason, Providence didn’t allow a goal.
With 8:14 left in Saturday’s Class A state championship game, an unexpected source ended the Pioneer scoreless streak and lifted Guerin Catholic to a 1-0 victory.
In the 73rd minute of the title game, Guerin junior Zach Garvey scored just his third goal of the season on a rebound to give the Golden Eagles their first state championship.
“Zach has a great shot, but he just doesn’t take it a lot because he’s an unselfish player who really prides himself on feeding other people,” Guerin head coach John Cech said. “I’m just so happy for him. That was the only goal they’ve given up, so I was thinking earlier today that this was going to be a one-goal game.”
The 10 minutes leading up to the goal, the Eagles had attacked Providence keeper Jeff Wiles with shot after shot. With just over eight minutes to play, a shot by Guerin star George Poppas was deflected to the feet of Garvey at the top of the goal box. Garvey settled the ball and rocketed the shot through the vaunted Pioneer defense and past Wiles.
“I feel that I could have gotten that,” said Providence keeper Jeff Wiles, who had earned all seven shutouts during the playoff run. “I blame myself on that. The defense played amazing.”
“He had a good strike,” senior midfielder Brent Hesse said. “I just didn’t have time to react or get to it.”
The Pioneers expressed pride in being the first Providence boys’ soccer team to reach the state finals. However, the overwhelming emotion was disappointment.
“I’m glad that we got here and set a record for our school, but it sucks losing,” Wiles said.
“We had a great season. We can hold our heads high, but we were so close,” Hesse said. “We were within seven minutes of getting to extra time or getting a lucky goal. It could have gone either way. They had more chances but it was still a 0-0 game.”
In fact, the Eagles had 28 more chances. Guerin finished the game with 28 shots, including 17 in the second half. Fourteen of the Eagles’ shots were on goal. Thirteen were saved by Wiles.
On the other side, the Pioneers didn’t officially attempt a single shot. Their lone chance came with 14:30 left in the first half when Evan Hollkamp put a free kick in the box. The ball was up for grabs, but it was poked away by the Eagles. Seconds later, freshman Connor VanHook appeared to have an open shot to give the Pioneers the lead, but he was called offsides.
“Plain and simple, Guerin Catholic was the better squad,” Providence coach Brandon Rogers admitted. “They brought it to us from the whistle and we just weren’t able to handle their pressure. [Guerin is] obviously one of the best teams we’ve seen all year.
“I thought we would be able to score, but we just weren’t able to build that pressure and really get forward.”
Although the Eagles had 28 shots, they had only had one great opportunity in the first half when a Khalid Hunter shot ricocheted off the top of the goal over Wiles’ outstretch hands.
The Pioneers were able to hold Guerin in line for the first 20 minutes of the second half before the Eagles began to take control.
“Our defense held strong,” Hesse said. “It took a lucky deflection to get the ball in the back of the net. Our defense played lights out despite the outcome.”
With the majority of the Pioneers expected to return for the 2014 season, Saturday’s state championship game may just be the beginning for Providence.
“We’re definitely excited about the future,” Rogers said. “I don’t think this is the last time we’ll get here. We’re going to keep working hard and hopefully we’ll be back to win one.”
“We have great underclassmen,” Wiles said. “They proved in this postseason they can really step up. I believe they have the potential to come back here and win it. They have the talent to do it.”
Hesse and Wiles were two of the five Providence seniors.
“This group of seniors was a special class,” Rogers said. “They brought the team together, without a doubt, and they were the reason we got this far. It’s going to be tough to replace them.”
“It was a great season, a great career. I had a great time,” Hesse said. “I’m very proud to be able to play for Providence these four years. It’s just sad that we came so close, but it was an overall great year.”
GUERIN CATHOLIC 1, PROVIDENCE 0
Guerin Catholic 0 1—1
Providence 0 0—0
8:14 — Zach Garvey (George Poppas), 8:14.
Shots: Guerin 28; Providence 0.
Shots on goal: Guerin 14; Providence 0.
Saves: Guerin — Tarcisio Trujillo 0; Providence — Jeff Wiles 13.
Corner kicks: Guerin — 2; Providence — 0.
Fouls: Guerin — 16; Providence — 11.
Cards — Guerin: David Hinkebein (yellow).