> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
If Providence High School girls’ varsity soccer coach Dave Smith is to be believed, then every Class A team in Indiana is going to have its work cut out trying to wrestle the Pioneers’ state title from their grasp this season.
“We have tremendous on-the-field leadership from our seniors, outstanding players all over the pitch, and — most importantly — good kids who genuinely love playing the beautiful game and representing their school,” he said.
Hoosiers, you have been warned.
One player opponents won’t have to contend with, however, is the school’s career-scoring leader Casey Marlin (95 goals).
Replacing her will not be an easy task, while two of its “Brick Force” defense, which conceded just six goals in 23 games last season, have also graduated — Kelsey Rogers and Erin Wallace.
Despite the losses, the Pioneers still have plenty of talent on the roster. Returning to lead the charges will be senior Leah Mattingly, a Ball State University commitment and central defender.
Alongside her as senior captain will be the elusive, nimble and highly skilled central midfielder Erin Duncan, as well as relentless marking back and team sparkplug Maryashly Betz.
Katie Barron, another senior, will bring needed depth and energy to the outside midfield position.
Junior Autumn Meyer once again will be in goal, while fellow juniors Rachel Wallace, Katelyn Koopman and Kasey Wallace enter the third stage of their high school careers sporting an impressive 38-2-3 record.
Smith believes that the combo of Wallace and Duncan is as dynamic a partnership as Providence has ever been blessed with.
“They cover so much ground and work so beautifully together,” he said. “They’re like two scorpions prowling their area: mobile, interchangeable and equally dangerous.”
Seasoned sophomores Alyssa Jones, Jordan Reger and Sarah Posante will be counted on heavily, primarily in the midfield and forward positions. All three benefited from last season’s postseason experience and have added the necessary strength to afford them greater durability for the upcoming campaign.
“All three of these girls can score, and we will need them to do so with the departure of Casey Marlin and her 36 goals last year,” said Smith.
New faces include diminutive freshmen Savanna Kerstiens and Emma Roesner, as well as fellow first-timers Mikaela Heavrin and Taylor Hunton, all of whom should contend for varsity minutes.
Athletic junior Sera Craig, a transfer from Scottsburg, is challenging for a spot on the varsity squad and may well jump into one of the defensive vacancies, as part of the reconstructed back four.
One significant addition to the Pioneers’ schedule is a visit to Louisville Manual, a perennial power in Kentucky. Other notably strong opponents include Columbus East, Columbus North, Louisville Mercy, Christian Academy of Louisville, North and South Oldham, Floyd Central and New Albany.
“We have ramped up our strength of schedule over the last 10 to 12 years, and this is without a doubt the most challenging of them all,” said Smith.
This year’s Class A girls’ sectional will be hosted by Switzerland County, which is not quite as far away as last year’s host Rising Sun.
Should the Pioneers capture the sectional (which would be their seventh in the last 12 years), they will again host the regional, where they upended Heritage Hills by a score of 4-0 last October.
“I’m excited about our chances,” said Smith. “Of course, playing beautiful soccer makes the ride that much more enjoyable, so that is our goal.”
This Saturday, the Pioneers will host a combined boys/girls jamboree, which will include Corydon, North Harrison and Madison (3:30 p.m. kickoff).
Meanwhile, Christian Academy of Indiana has reintroduced a girls’ program after a year hiatus. They will be coached by Brett O’Loughlin.
“We are a very young team with only one senior and three juniors,” he said. “We are also very inexperienced. There are a couple of the girls that have never played before.”
The Warriors will have leadership from captains Kendra Driver, Makenzie Wingham and Rachel Wright, while they will be hoping for some good production from freshmen Amy Leffler and Brittany Albert.
“There is a tremendous interest in the sport in the middle school and the elementary school, so it is realistic to think if we can make it through this year and next we will be in terrific shape,” said O’Loughlin.
Other local Class A teams hoping to improve this year include Silver Creek and Charlestown. Pirates’ coach Shawn Smith said they have the full spectrum of players on the team, from those who play select soccer to those who have never played the game or even an organized sport.
“I think as the new players get comfortable with everything and experience the speed of play of an actual game, we’ll start seeing the team come together and have the practices elevate to the next level of intensity,” Shawn Smith said.
Players to watch for Charlestown include seniors Tyelar Motsinger (goalkeeper) and Adi Gomez, as well as freshman Sara Rutkowski.
In Class 2A, Floyd Central will be hoping to retain its Sectional 30 title won last year against Jasper.
The Highlanders say goodbye to influential seniors Lauren Haley, Loryn Queen and Taylor Patty, who bagged 36 goals between them last fall, while Kaitlin Hein and goalkeeper Katie Perkins will be missing from the Floyd Central defense.
However, the Highlanders welcome back impressive defenders Christine Clark and Lydia Kost, while Kady O’Farrell, Lauren Wyatt, Ali Host, Mary Clay and Cylie Miller also should leave their mark on the season.
New Albany will be without the school’s record career goalscorer, Kamaren Cole (81), but returning will be defender Tanner Marcum, Phoebe Bauer and the Iglesias twins, Stephanie and Selena.
Jeffersonville will be coached by Scott Epley, who said he is thrilled with the effort his players have been putting forth this summer.
“Our senior leadership from Taylor Davis and Jesse Riggle has helped bond the players together as a team,” he said. “Taylor and Jesse will be two of the main cogs in our machine along with junior midfielders Devin Carrier and Hannah Scott.”
The other returning varsity players, senior Carmen Tinoco and sophomores Beka Harris and Kimmi Beard, will be essential for their success, said Epley, while freshmen Libby West and Tori Ogden will be welcome assets to their program.
Epley said he is fortunate to have former New Albany assistant coach Jason Crane, whose daughter Ashlyn looks set to be the Red Devils’ goalkeeper, as an assistant this fall.
“With his emphasis on technical training, we have become better with our footwork,” said Epley. “We still have a way to go to get to the level we want to achieve to be competitive with the top teams in our area. But the dedication is there, the desire is there and the heart is there. I love this team.”
Contact Aidan Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.