BY ROB LAFARY
Jac-Cen-Del’s boys’ soccer team had never been to a regional prior to Thursday night’s showdown against Providence. But the Pioneers made sure their first trip was an memorable one, defeating the 15th-ranked Eagles in the Class A Switzerland County Regional semifinals, 3-0.
But Jac-Cen-Del (13-3-2) played the part of a ranked team for most of the first half and had Providence going every which way on the field.
Outshooting the defending regional champion Pioneers 13-6 in the first half, including 11 on goal, the Eagles put up over half of those shots in the first 20 minutes of the contest.
“We came out ready to play,” said Providence head coach Brandon Rogers. “But give Jac-Cen-Del some credit. They had us on our heels big time in the first 20 minutes. They came out with lots of intensity and threw us for a little bit of a loop to start out the night.”
However, despite the barrage of shots, none of them made it close to hitting the net, due in large part to Pioneer goalkeeper Jeffrey Wiles, who slowly became the big story of the night.
Collecting 19 saves in the match including 11 in the first half, Wiles frustrated a ruthless Eagles offense that was arguably the best scoring team in Southeastern Indiana heading into the semifinal.
“He [Wiles] had his best game of the season tonight,” exclaimed Rogers. “Had Jac-Cen-Del converted on one of those opportunities in the first half and taken the lead first this night would have been completely different. But Jeffrey got the job done, made big stops and was just excellent tonight.”
With Wiles in control of the net, Providence survived the first 20 minutes and calmed back down, taking away the Eagles attack and starting an assault of their own.
With 17:35 left to play before halftime, David Betz fired a shot just outside of the box, giving the Pioneers a 1-0 lead that would stick as both teams went into the break.
Jac-Cen-Del again won the shooting battle in the second half. But Wiles and the Providence defense disrupted any type of flow the Eagles attempted to create, forcing shots that really had no chance of going in for scores.
“Jac-Cen-Del played well together and knew when to make runs and when to attack,” said Rogers. “Once we figured out their strategy, we made some adjustments. We pushed up into their backs and we kept hammering down their throats. When we did that, I wasn’t too concerned with the outcome of the match.”
The Pioneers’ offense also made great strides in the final 40 minutes, putting together two goals in a span of just under 12 minutes.
Freshman Connor Vanhook took a deflection off of Eagle goalie Derek Powers, scoring with 26:09 to go in regulation. Then, Thomas David booted one into the net off a beautiful pass by Conner Evanczyk, securing the huge 3-0 win on a chilly and breezy night in Vevay.
“All game our offense tried to get the ball wide and swing it to get a score,” Rogers said. “The second half we were finally able to do that and it paid off. With the offense adding on to what our defense was doing all night, it made for a great evening of Providence soccer and we continue to march on in this tournament.”
Providence (12-6-2) will face Trinity Lutheran in the regional championship game at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Cougars defeated Southwestern 2-1 in the first regional semifinal on Thursday.
CLASS A SWITZERLAND COUNTY REGIONAL
PROVIDENCE 3, JAC-CEN-DEL 0
Providence 1 2—3
Jac-Cen-Del 0 0—0
P — David Betz (unassisted), 22:25.
P — Connor Vanhook (unassisted), 53:51.
P — Thomas David (Conner Evanczyk assist), 65:03.