By GREG MENGELT
Coming into the season, Providence coach Dave Smith hoped senior and first-year starter Katie Barron would score one meaningful goal so she would know just how important she is to the defending state champions.
On Saturday, Barron scored in the second overtime of Providence’s Class A Evansville Semistate championship game at Bundrant Stadium, giving the Pioneers a 3-2 win and sending them back to the state title match.
“She was there where we needed her to be when we needed her the most,” Smith said of Barron.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Barron said. “My senior year has been so amazing. This whole thing is a true blessing.”
Class A No. 4 Providence (14-4-3) faces a rematch with Mishawaka Marian, which it beat in penalty kicks a year ago for the program’s first state crown, Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Most people never get to do this once,” Pioneer senior Leah Mattingly said. “To go twice, it shows how much heart this team has. It is awesome!”
“I can’t believe we’re actually doing it again,” junior Kasey Wallace added.
The Pioneers believe they have an excellent shot at a repeat against the 17-4-2 and third-ranked Knights.
“I have full faith in our team,” Barron said. “If we play our best and we play as a team, I think we can win. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
“We can do it,” Wallace said. “If we play like we did today, we should do it.”
Barron’s game-winning goal — her second of the championship match — started with Wallace. With the Pioneers’ chances of avoiding another shootout seemingly slipping away — Wallace found space on the right baseline. Without a shot to take, Wallace put the ball across the goal box and on Barron’s foot six yards away from the goal. Barron tapped the shot between two Trojans and past goalkeeper Katie Armstrong.
“I had no angle to shoot it, so I said to myself I might as well play it across and hope someone’s there. Katie came through and this is my happiest moment ever.”
“She sent a great ball,” Barron praised. “The goal wouldn’t have happened without her. There’s no doubt about that.”
“Kasey has beautiful runs,” Mattingly said. “She can just slot it through and Katie was right there to finish it.”
Chatard got two shots off in the first minute of overtime, but neither team showed any more offense until Erin Duncan’s long shot that was easily corralled by Armstrong.
With neither team showing much left in the tank in the second overtime — in both teams’ second game of the day — it appeared that penalty kicks were imminent until Wallace’s run and Barron’s clincher.
“The heart of this team to come back, not once, but twice,” Smith said. “It would have been really easy to pack it in. Oh gosh, they fought! What a team!”
Just when things were looking bleak in regulation, Barron tied the score at 2-2 on a rebound with 14:33 left when Armstrong got tangled with Alyssa Jones and was unable to deflect Jordan Reger’s corner kick out of the box.
Providence controlled the final 10 minutes of regulation and nearly won it twice. With 8:18 left, Wallace’s shot from 25 yards out clanked off of the cross bar. Just over a minute later, a Jones chip shot from the top of the box couldn’t quite make it over the top of Armstrong.
“That’s almost too much for an old man like me,” Smith said immediately after the final horn sounded.
After hitting the cross bar twice and just missing a crossing shot 30 seconds earlier, Chatard star Krissy Kirkhoff found the back of the net on her fourth shot in the first 20 minutes of the contest to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
It was only the second goal the Pioneers surrendered all tournament long.
“They could have been up 3-, 4-0. They just came out and punched us in the mouth and it just looked like they were going to blow us off the field,” Smith said.
Less than three minutes after Kirkhoff’s goal, Mattingly evened the match at 1-apiece. The senior’s free kick from 42 yards away sailed over Armstrong’s head and just under the cross bar for her second goal of the day.
“I was kind of surprised [it went in],” Mattingly said. “I saw it going toward the goal and went, ‘Get in! Get in! Get in!’”
“She came over to school [Friday] on her own and worked on free kicks,” Smith said of Mattingly. “She probably hit 50 of them from all different angles and distances. I think it paid off. She’s a special player.”
With 11 minutes left in the opening half, Mattingly nearly gave Providence its first lead of the day. After Wallace was fouled by Samantha Schwab near the box on the base line, Mattingly got her head on Reger’s free kick, but Armstrong deflected it just left of the goal.
It remained 1-1 into the half, but Hannah Parker put in a rebound of Kirkhoff’s third shot off of the cross bar less than five minutes into the second half.
“[Kirkoff] came out and had us on our heels,” Mattingly said. “Once we got the feel of how she plays, our defense stepped up. We controlled her the rest of the game.”
Four different Pioneers scored a goal and Providence earned its fourth shutout of the tournament in a 4-0 semifinal victory over host Mater Dei.
Erin Duncan gave Providence a 1-0 lead, which stood until after halftime. Mattingly, Wallace and Jones added second-half goals as Providence earned its second consecutive trip to the Class A Final 4.
CLASS A EVANSVILLE SEMISTATE
PROVIDENCE 3, CHATARD 2 (OT)
Providence 1 1 0 1—3
Chatard 1 1 0 0—2
C — Krissy Kirkhoff (unassisted), 20:03.
P — Leah Mattingly (free kick), 17:12.
C — Hannah Parker (Kirkhoff), 35:02.
P — Katie Barron (unassisted), 14:43.
P — Barron (Kasey Wallace), 3:50.
PROVIDENCE 4, EVANSVILLE MATER DEI 0
Providence 1 3—4
Mater Dei 0 0—0
P — Erin Duncan.
P — Mattingly.
P — Wallace.
P — Alyssa Jones.