By GREG MENGELT
Providence center midfielders Erin Duncan and Kasey Wallace have been here before — in a bit of a different role this time.
Duncan, Wallace and the Pioneers are headed back to the state finals at IUPUI in Indianapolis after winning the Class A championship a year ago.
Last season, Duncan and Wallace deferred to Casey Marlin offensively. This year, with Marlin gone, the duo has combined for 23 goals and 12 assists, including Wallace’s team-leading 17 scores, up from nine a year ago.
“Erin has elevated her fitness. Her pace just doesn’t fluctuate,” Providence coach Dave Smith said. “It’s pretty incredible. Her stamina is phenomenal.”
“Kasey compliments her because she’s more powerful, more of a slasher. She’s just a load. People have a tough time stopping her. She’s just rugged. Together, they are a lot to handle.”
Wallace and Duncan spent some time before practice on Wednesday answering questions about this week’s state finals rematch against Mishawaka Marian (1 p.m. Saturday) and last year’s championship — the first in any sport in Providence history.
QUESTION: Coming into the season, did you consider the possibility of getting back to the state finals?
DUNCAN: “We had high expectations, but I don’t know if we expected to go this far again. It’s amazing.”
WALLACE: “I think we thought we could probably make it really, really far into the tournament, but we had no clue we could come back and say we’re playing in the state finals.”
Q: What’s the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s?
DUNCAN: “This year’s team is all about passing and getting the ball downfield as a unit. Last year, we would play a through ball to Casey Marlin, our leading scorer. This year’s a completely different attacking style.”
WALLACE: “Last year, it was pass the ball up the field and look for Casey and hopefully she’ll score, which she usually did. This year, it’s more passing together because anyone can score.”
Q: Are you better defensively?
DUNCAN: “It’s about the same. Our defense has always been solid. We know we can count on them.”
Q: What do you know about Mishawaka Marian besides what you learned about them in last year’s state finals?
WALLACE: “I don’t know much about them. I know that they have most of their people back from last year, so they’re still going to be good.”
Q: What do you envision happening for yourself and for the team on Saturday when you lie in bed at night?
DUNCAN: “I envision our team working really well together and being excited about the game. Who doesn’t get excited about a state championship? We’re going to go for it again. [Winning the championship] would be exciting for our whole school and our team and our program.”
WALLACE: “I envision, if we play together and everyone works together as a team, I imagine us coming out pretty good and having a great shot winning it.”
Q: Kasey, you started off the penalty kick shootout [which Providence won 3-1 to win the state title]. What was it like going first in that situation?
WALLACE: “Oh, gosh. If you look at the video, when I was picked, I was like ‘Oh, no.’ I can’t go first. If you look at the video, I’m hyperventilating and sweating. The ref called me up to the line and it was like five minutes before I could kick. It was terrifying.”
Q: So you didn’t know you were going to go first?
WALLACE: “No. We had no clue what the order was. We have no idea this year if that were to happen, which hopefully it doesn’t. Right as the situation comes up, he tells us who’s up and we have to go kick.”
Q: Erin, you were third. You knew if this goes in, it’s going to be a huge situation. What were you feeling when you stepped up to the ball ahead 2-0?
DUNCAN: “I was still really nervous. I didn’t want to mess it up for our team. I wanted to make sure we would still be going on a good, strong path.”
Q: With volleyball still going [into Saturday’s semi-state] and Kori Siebert and Erin Denis having a successful cross country season, what does it say about the girls’ athletics at Providence?
DUNCAN: “Girls athletics have come a long way. I think we’re a really athletic group overall. I’m really proud of all of us.”
WALLACE: “I think it shows that just because your school is small, you don’t have a disadvantage. I think we’re all into sports and into Providence athletics.”
Q: What’s it been like at school this week?
DUNCAN: “It’s been a little more low-key than last year, but there’s still a lot of excitement in the air. We’re sharing [the excitement] with the volleyball team, so that’s really cool that both are going so far together again. It’s almost like sister programs. We try to support each other.”
WALLACE: “It’s good. We support each other. A lot of [the soccer players] went to the volleyball [regional] last night. We’re hoping to win and go down [to Forest Park] and watch them [in the semi-state championship] after.”
Q: Kasey, last year you played with your sister, Erin, throughout the season and in the state finals. How has this year been different without her?
WALLACE: “It’s different because I came in as a freshman with an older sibling, but this year I have a younger sister [Ramey Wallace], who’s on JV, but it is different. But having a younger sister coming up is pretty cool, too.”
Q: No matter what happens on Saturday, you’ll always be the first Providence team ever to win a state championship. What does that mean to you?
DUNCAN: “It still hasn’t sunk in from last year. Our school was so proud of us. It’s still hard to imagine. I think we’ll always be bonded by this. Everybody will remember us, which is really cool.”
WALLACE: “It’s amazing. You look in the gym and all of the banners are hanging up. It shows who won sectionals each year. To think we have a state banner up there is really awesome.”
Q: Final question, are you going to win?
DUNCAN: “I don’t want to predict them game, but if we play our best, good things will happen.”
WALLACE: “I don’t want to jinx ourselves, but if we play like we should and we play together, we will do amazing things and hopefully come out with the win.”