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November 22, 2012

H.S. GIRLS' SOCCER: Selfless, versatile Mattingly is Player of the Year

Providence senior led Pioneers to back-to-back state finals appearances

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Leah Mattingly scored 16 goals and had a pair of assists as a senior at Providence.

That — combined with back-to-back appearances in the state championship game — could be good enough to make someone the News and Tribune girls’ soccer Player of the Year.

However, had Mattingly not had a single goal or a single assist, she plays defense so well that she still would have been the Player of the Year.

Mattingly led a Pioneer defense that allowed just 14 goals and had 12 shutouts in 24 games in 2012. In fact, the Mattingly-led defense shut out the first three teams it faced in the playoffs.

“When a player is a defender, it’s the equivalent of an offensive lineman in football,” Providence coach Dave Smith said. “They don’t get the same glory as someone who can score a touchdown gets. To me, that player has to be so outstanding to get noticed. The impact on the game has to be so dramatic for people to say, ‘Look at No. 3 take over the game.’ And I think she did that. I think it was obvious to anyone who watched her play. Very few defenders can take over a game.”

Mattingly, who will play soccer at Ball State starting next season, made an impact on every Providence game. Even as a defender, opposing coaches always had to account for Mattingly.

“She tends to control that whole defensive center area, the whole defensive back line,” Floyd Central coach Lewie Stevens said. “Obviously, she gets into the attack offensively, too. She’s the whole package. I’m glad she’s graduating.”

“What I heard most is ‘Leah is everywhere,’” Smith said. “When the other team has a corner kick, she was usually the one getting her head on it. When we had a corner kick, she was usually the one to get her head on it. She just made plays. She’s a difference-maker.”  

Mattingly’s quickness is obvious. Her athleticism is first-rate. However, what set Mattingly apart was her soccer IQ.

“You have to have mental toughness,” Mattingly said. “One of my favorite things to do is once you get inside [an opponent’s] head, you have them for the rest of the game. The idea is to deny the forward the ball. Once you do that a few times, you’re in their head the rest of the game.”

“I don’t think she was born a sensational athlete,” Smith said. “I think she was born a good athlete and made herself a great athlete. She has a healthy dose of competitive fire. She’s driven, just driven. She expects a lot of herself and she pushes herself to that end and she’s relentless.”

Mattingly was relentless in making herself a great dead-ball scorer. Along with the great headers, she’s also one of the best free kickers Smith has ever seen.

In a 3-2 win over Chatard in the Semi-state, Mattingly scored the Pioneers’ first goal on a 42-yard free kick in the top corner of the goal. It couldn’t have been place any more perfectly.

“I practice a lot on my free kicks,” Mattingly said. “Before semi-state, I went out the day before and I must have kicked 50 free kicks. That obviously paid off.”

“Her work ethic is beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” said Smith, who has coached the Pioneers for 14 years. “She works as hard as anyone in practice then goes out on her own and invests more time.

That goal helped lead the defending state champion Pioneers to another state finals berth. This time, Providence came up short, 2-0 against Mishawaka Marian, but Mattingly said the experience was beyond belief.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It’s probably been on of the best experiences of my life. To be able to go to state back-to-back is unbelievable. I probably wouldn’t have believed that was possible that coming into Providence [as a freshman].”

Now Mattingly will try to carry on her individual and team success at Ball State next fall. The Cardinals went 8-6-5 this season under second-year head coach Craig Roberts, who Mattingly said has the program headed in the right direction.

“He seemed like he really wanted me,” Mattingly said. “I had a few other schools in mind, but I loved their campus and I want to do athletic training and they have one of the best programs around. Obviously, I’m going for school, not just soccer, and I wanted to find a university that would fit both.

“[Roberts] has turned around that program. It’s coming together really nice.”

Smith said it’s Ball State that will be the winner in the relationship.

“She’s one of the most humble, soft-spoken, Christian young ladies I’ve ever been around,” he said. “She’s a ferocious competitor but extremely kind-hearted on the inside. She’s the complete package. Ball State is getting a gem, a steal. She’ll do us proud.”

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