By GREG MENGELT
Although it was no consolation following Saturday’s Class A 2-0 state championship loss to Mishawaka Marian, the Providence Pioneers’ girls’ soccer team will always be champions.
The group of 18 players — save a handful of freshmen who will get two more shots at making their own history — will always be remembered as history-makers after winning Providence’s first state championship in any sport a year ago.
Despite failing to defend its crown on Saturday, it will go down as one of the few teams in girls’ soccer history with consecutive state finals appearances.
Saturday brought the end of the best two-year run for any girls’ soccer program in Southern Indiana history.
“These last two years have been phenomenal,” Providence senior and Mental Attitude Award winner Erin Duncan said. “These girls have been amazing and never give up. They have so much heart. I love them all. They’re like sisters to me.”
“Today’s not easy,” Providence coach Dave Smith said. “But I think the fact that they’ll always be champions will take away some of the disappointment from today. We know what [Marian is] feeling now and they know what we’re feeling now.”
Duncan and Leah Mattingly led a senior class that played its last game on Saturday. It’s a senior class that won more than 50 games against fewer than 10 losses in the past three years.
“I love this team. You can’t ask for more,” Smith said. “They represented their school so well. The standard they’ve established will carry forward. They’ve been a dream-come-true to coach.”
All of the glowing reviews for their work couldn’t mask the hurt on Saturday. Tears, frowns and scowls in the team photo will forever serve as testament to Saturday’s hard-fought defeat. It’s a good thing that few will be looking at it next to the 2011 state championship photo that features so many of the same players.
“It almost stings more knowing what it feels like [to win],” senior Maryashly Betz said. “We wanted to defend our title, and as a senior, we wanted to win our last game. It just stinks. I knew we could [win] so it’s just upsetting.”
“It hurts a lot,” Duncan said. “Last year we got to experience what it feels like [to win a championship] and this year we were so close.
“It hurts when it’s taken away from you, but it’s still an honor to get there.”
Through the tears and disappointment, senior Katie Barron and Duncan were able to put Saturday’s loss in perspective. Well, at least they gave it their best shot.
“It does hurt that we lost today. But to think that this team has made it this far again is such an accomplishment,” Barron said. “I’m grateful to have had my senior year with these ladies and I’m happy we made it this far.”
“It’s nice to know we’ll always be champions,” Duncan said. “And the first-ever Class A champion at that.”