By GREG MENGELT
Providence controlled possession and had the best of the opportunities for much of Saturday’s Class A state championship. But Mishawaka Marian scored two first-half goals and avenged last year’s state finals loss in the first IHSAA soccer state championship played at Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium.
The Pioneers beat Marian in a penalty-kick shootout a year ago for their first-ever state championship. But on Saturday, the Knights scored 10 minutes into the contest and again with 10 minutes left in the first half to take their first girls’ soccer state championship, 2-0 over Providence.
“It was so close last year,” Knights’ coach Djamel Charmat said. “The girls were so determined to get back to state again. They worked so hard with the single objective to hopefully [getting] back to state and this time win it.”
“They beat us, we didn’t just lose,” Providence coach Dave Smith admitted. “They outplayed us. I’m proud of my girls. I’m sorry they couldn’t leave with smiles on their faces, but I couldn’t be prouder really.”
After a slow start from both teams, Marian’s D.J. Veldman put a shot to the right of a diving Providence goalkeeper Autumn Meyer to give the Knights a 1-0 lead on their first shot of the contest at the 30:28 mark.
“That’s where we picked up some momentum,” Charmat said. “That was a big goal for us. That was the key, crucial.”
“That was tough,” Smith admitted. “We had been putting pressure on them. [Veldman] is so explosive. They just executed. She ran on it with great speed and skill to finish.”
“We weren’t really ready for that,” Providence senior defender Maryashly Betz said.
Over the next 15-plus minutes, Providence (14-5-3) dominated possession, shots and opportunities, including four serious scoring chances.
At the 27:17 mark, Alyssa Jones’ shot — the Pioneers’ first real scoring chance of the match — sailed over Knights’ keeper Makaela Douglas and the top of the goal.
A little more than eight minutes later, Kasey Wallace’s shot was deflected wide by Douglas for a corner kick. Mikaila Heavrin’s corner kick found the foot of fellow freshman Emma Roesner. Roesner’s shot was on-goal, but Douglas came through with a standout save.
At the 17:30 mark, Wallace took possession near midfield and went straight down the middle of the field nearly uncontested. Her shot from the top of the box ricocheted off the crossbar.
“It was a very evenly matched game,” Providence senior Katie Barron said. “It went back and forth and it could have gone either way.”
“We had our chances,” senior Erin Duncan added. “We had some great shots, great hustle.”
Three minutes later, Leah Mattingly’s free kick just outside the box was batted away by Douglas. Douglas was 4-for-4 on save opportunities in the first half and 6-of-6 for the contest.
“She was excellent. She was fantastic,” Charmat said. “She made some great saves.”
The Knights (18-4-2) took advantage of their next possession when Mattingly fouled Shannon Hendricks just outside of the box. Hendricks took the free kick and put the 15-footer just over the fingertips of Meyer to give Marian a 2-0 lead that it would hold for the rest of the contest.
“They earned their two goals,” Smith said.
Although the Knights were in command at the half, the defending state champions still believed they would repeat as champions.
“I still thought we had a chance,” Meyer said. “I believe with everything I have in my team.”
“I still believed we had every chance to come back,” Barron said. “We’ve come back so many times because we have heart for the game.”
Shots were even 8-8 at the half and both teams got four shots on goal.
“I guess you could say that the second goal was a bit of a backbreaker,” Smith said. “But it wasn’t enough to kill the girls’ spirit. They kept fighting. I’m so proud of them.”
Like the first half, Providence’s attack took awhile to get going in the second half. It was nearly 13 minutes in when Sarah Posante stole a Marian back pass just outside of the box.
Posante dribbled just inside of the box and fired toward the net. The Pioneers’ best opportunity of the second half was easily corralled by Douglas just in front of the goal.
With 9:20 left, Mattingly beat two Knight defenders and found Jones in the box. But Jones failed to get off a shot in front of Douglas.
Meyer kept Marian in the contest with two diving saves in one-on-one situations in a 10-second span. Meyer finished with six saves in arguably her best performance of the season.
“Autumn played amazing,” Betz said. “We couldn’t have won semi-state without her and today she played amazing. It would have been a bigger loss if she wouldn’t have played her game.”
“She had some great saves,” Duncan said. “She couldn’t help those goals. They weren’t her fault. She’s a great keeper.”
At the 4:30 mark, Mattingly got a head on a Jordan Reger corner kick, but the shot went over the top of the goal. Fifty seconds later, a Mattingly free kick was snagged by Douglas. It was the last serious scoring chance for the runner-up Pioneers.
“l thought we played a great game and we played together,” Barron said.
CLASS A STATE FINALS
MISHAWAKA MARIAN 2, PROVIDENCE 0
Providence 0 0—0
Marian 2 0—2
M — D.J. Veldman (Gabby Veldman), 30:28.
M — Shannon Hendricks (free kick), 10:51.
Shots: Providence 11, Marian 12.
Shots on Goal: Providence 6, Marian 8.
Saves: Providence — Autumn Meyer 6; Marian — Makaela Douglas 6.
Corner Kicks: Providence 3, Marian 3.
Fouls: Providence 8, Marian 10.