By GREG MENGELT
After winning three straight sectionals from 2008-10 — and a regional title in 2009 — New Albany has gone through some lean times in the past couple of seasons.
If Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Providence is any indication, the Bulldogs are back — or at least on their way back.
New Albany (4-3-1) used its youth and athleticism to score a pair of goals late in the first half for a victory over a Providence team that beat the Bulldogs 5-0 a year ago.
“We have a much younger team and we’ve had to work a lot harder to get where we’ve gotten this year,” New Albany senior goalkeeper Ryan Castleberry said. “Last year they beat us 5-0, so it was good to come in here and get a win.”
“I think this is a very nice win,” concurred New Albany coach Dutch Vigar, who led the Bulldogs to the regional crown in ’09. “We are young and inexperienced. I’ve been real pleased with how we’ve progressed.”
Providence coach Brandon Rogers also was impressed with the new-look Bulldogs.
“That’s a solid team there,” he said. “Athleticism is probably not one of our strong suits. Any time we face a team that is physical and athletic, we struggle.”
After the first 17 minutes with little action near either goal, New Albany had three chances to get on the board on scoring chances by sophomore Leslie Chu, senior Matthew Walston and freshman Coen Beach.
Walston and Beach wouldn’t let another opportunity slip away. With 15:26 left in the opening half, Walston flipped a pass over a Providence defender. Beach got to the ball first and chipped a shot over Pioneer keeper Jeff Wiles for a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Chu played a ball ahead to junior Santiago Lazaro, who slid a shot past Wiles’ left side and it was 2-0 Bulldogs.
“You have to give [New Albany] credit, but we just didn’t play a good first half,” Rogers said.
New Albany junior Christian Angeles had two great opportunities to add to the Bulldogs’ score early in the second half. He missed a shot just wide right of the goal. With just a couple minutes later, he beat Wiles to the ball but his touch went just over the baseline.
From there, all of the action was in New Albany’s end. Providence had 15 shots in the second half and seven significant scoring chances, including a pair of free kicks from just outside the box and two Christian Huber headers that just missed. Huber’s first header — coming off a corner kick after Castleberry was able to deflect a Brent Hesse shot — hit the crossbar. His second went just right of the goal.
“We just can’t wait to show up and only play in the second half,” Rogers said. “It was lack of intensity and lack of effort from this squad.”
While Providence was peppering the New Albany goal, Castleberry always seemed in control.
“Ryan does a great job,” Vigar said. “He had a great game and he’s a very good goalie.”
The Bulldog senior praised the defense of fellow seniors Bryan Kong and Ryan Shipton in front of him.
“Me being a senior keeper helps a lot,” Castleberry said. “We have a lot of experienced players in the back. We know what we need to do.”
New Albany will face another rival on Thursday when it hosts Floyd Central. Providence (4-6-1) will next host sectional-rival Christian Academy on Saturday.
NEW ALBANY 2, PROVIDENCE 0
New Albany 2 0—2
Providence 0 0—0
N — Coen Beard (Matthew Walston), 29th min.
N — Santiago Lazaro (Leslie Chu), 31st.