November 18, 2011

Our Lady of Providence High School girls’ soccer team wins state title

School scores first IHSAA state crown in a team sport

Members of the girls’ soccer team at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville show their joy and their trophy after winning the Class A state championship on Oct. 29. It is the first time in the 60-year history of the school that a Providence team has won an Indiana High School Athletic Association state championship in a team sport. (Submitted photo)

Members of the girls’ soccer team at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville show their joy and their trophy after winning the Class A state championship on Oct. 29. It is the first time in the 60-year history of the school that a Providence team has won an Indiana High School Athletic Association state championship in a team sport. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

During the weeks leading up to the state championship game, head coach Dave Smith kept stressing one point to the players on the girls’ soccer team at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.

He told the girls they had a great opportunity to give something special to so many people in a year when Providence—a school that had never won an Indiana High School Athletic Association state championship in any team sport—is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

“We talked in our practices about giving our community a gift that couldn’t be bought,” Smith recalls. “This was a way of giving back to your parents, your school, your community. A lot of teams and a lot of players had given everything they had for their school and each other through the years. The team really bought into it—to give something back.”

As they rode their school bus north to Indianapolis for the championship game on Oct. 29, the girls had already achieved a record of 20 wins, no losses and two ties in the season.

They had also won a lot of hearts and a growing number of fans as they successfully made their way through the sectional, regional and semi-state stages of the first ever Class A state soccer tournament—for schools with less than 756 students.

“We had a tremendous crowd from Providence show up for the championship,” says Smith about the game against the team from Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind. “We just took over the stands. We had fans who had never been to a soccer game before. We had fans come in from Chicago and New York. It was just a great thing to see the community rally behind the girls’ soccer team.”

Naturally, part of the reason for the huge turnout was the team’s success, but Smith heard from enough fans to know there was another reason for the large crowd—the character of the girls on the team.

“One of the reasons a lot of people got on the bandwagon is that they see the girls as wonderful representatives of Providence and Catholic schools,” says Smith, who is also the school’s director of admissions. “The girls had an unselfish attitude. They’re humble. They don’t talk trash. Teachers would stop me in the hallway and say, ‘I just love the girls on your team. They’re just fantastic in the classroom.’ ”

In the tense state championship game, the Providence girls needed that character as much as the quality of play that had made them undefeated. After 80 minutes of regulation, the championship game was scoreless. The score stayed the same after two overtime sessions of seven minutes each.

So the game came down to penalty kicks, where five players from each team took turns trying to score against the other team’s goalkeeper. When it ended, Providence had scored three goals to Mishawaka’s one.

For the first time in 60 years, an Indiana High School Athletic Association state championship trophy was handed to a Providence team.

“There was a lot of jumping up and down, a lot of hugs, a lot of girls screaming,” Smith says. “I definitely had a moment of being overwhelmed. I bent over and put my head down. Then I looked at the sky and just said, ‘Thank you.’ ”

Later, he found his wife, Yvonne, a Providence graduate who has taught for 20 years at Most Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Jeffersonville.

“She told me that after the game, she was crying,” Smith recalls. “I said, ‘Why were you crying?’ She said that a lot of Providence people were crying. It just meant a lot to our community. Our people tend to be really tight-knit. Blue Pride still runs through the people here.”

Smith cherishes that sense of Providence pride as much as he savors the state championship that the girls’ soccer team earned.

“It was really kind of humbling,” he says. “It was just a beautiful thing.” †

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