By GREG MENGELT
Providence’s girls’ soccer team won the school’s first state championship in 2011. The volleyball team made a state finals run a year ago and is the favorite to give the Pioneers their second girls’ state title next week.
The boys’ soccer team is ready to make some history of its own when it will face No. 1 Guerin Catholic in Saturday’s Class A state championship at Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis.
No Providence boys’ program has ever won a state championship, and it is the school’s first boys’ state finalist since the football team made a trek to the state championship game in 1993.
“Being the first [Providence] boys’ soccer to make it there is great,” senior goalkeeper Jeff Wiles said. “For us to know that we could do what no other team could do, that’s great. If we could win it, it would be even greater. The girls accomplished their goal. Now we want to accomplish ours.”
“Winning state would be just fantastic,” senior defender Tommy Davis added. “I can’t even express my emotions. It gets my adrenaline pumping just thinking about [winning the title]. It would be really crazy.”
When the two-class system was announced before the 2011 season, the Providence boys’ soccer program expected to be a beneficiary of it. While the girls took advantage and went to state in back-to-back seasons, the Pioneer boys came up short the past two seasons.
The trip to Carroll Stadium has been a three-year process.
“It’s been a long time coming for Providence boys’ soccer,” Providence coach Brandon Rogers said. “Since the 2000’s, we’ve been knocking on the door.”
“It really means the world to us,” senior Nick Reas said. “The last two years, we went up and watched the girls and we were really proud of them. We imagined how much better it would have felt if we had been up there with them. Now we get to go up there, and if we win, it would probably be the greatest moment of my life. It’s every high school kid’s dream to go to state and win the state finals.”
It certainly won’t be easy. Guerin Catholic is 17-2-3 and, like Providence, plays a schedule full of Class 2A competition. The Golden Eagles have won nine games in a row and is 12-1-2 in its last 15 games.
In the tournament, Guerin has outscored its opponents, 14-1.
“Guerin’s No. 1 for a reason,” Reas said. “We know they’re going to be good, but we just have to be the best we possibly can.”
“They’re going to be a solid team,” Rogers said. “I think they’re going to be one of the better teams we’ve played all year, but I wouldn’t expect to get to the state finals without it being that way.”
With five regular freshmen and several other underclassmen, Providence (15-6-2) was supposed to be a team of the future. The 2013 season didn’t begin as planned.
A 4-1 loss to Floyd Central, an 8-1 setback to Bloomington North and a 2-0 loss to New Albany made people outside of the program question whether the Pioneers were a contender.
Another loss may have helped turn around the season. A 3-2 defeat at the hands of Southern Indiana Class 2A powerhouse Jeffersonville on Sept. 28 was perhaps the turning point in a championship season. The Pioneers jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Red Devils before falling short. Still, competing with Jeff made the Pioneers believe they could compete with high-level opponents.
“They were a great team,” Wiles said of the Red Devils. “After that, we realized, ‘Oh, we can play with a really good team.’ It showed us that if we push every day, we could do this.”
“Halfway through the season, we weren’t taking much seriously,” Davis said. “When we played Jeff, we really stepped up our game. It really helped us because we started taking things seriously and really upped our game.”
The rest is history. The Pioneers have won eight straight games and have outscored those eight opponents, 27-1.
And on Saturday, the Providence boys will be looking to make even more history.