Intense half pushes Providence
North Harrison debuted a formation not many expect to see when entering a match as an underdog.
The effectiveness of a 3-4-3 worked for much of the first half in Saturday’s Class 1A Providence boys’ soccer championship. Keeping formation with on-ball pressure while running to take away passing lanes, North Harrison expunged energy to slow the host Pioneers.
Held out of goal for 36 minutes, Providence broke through with 3:37 to go until the half-time break. Eli Coker sent a crossing pass to Braden Rainier. Inside the penalty area, Rainer’s shot from the right side beat North Harrison keeper Quinn Kaiser to the far post.
The 1-0 half-time Providence lead moved to the eventual final of 4-0 with a trio of goals in a three-minute span early in the second half. Kaiser faced a variety of shots in the final 40 minutes, making several quality saves on Pioneers’ shots on target.
Pressure and energy in the first half was a working tactic for the Cougars.
North Harrison coach Clint Clark recognized playing on an artificial turf and the largest field presented an opportunity to give the 3-4-3 formation a try. The Cougars lost to Providence 4-0 in Ramsey during the regular season.
‘We had been practicing after the Lanesville (semi-final) game, trying to make the field smaller,’ Clark said. ‘We recognized it would be a tougher task to pressure them heavily on this field, but we were able to do it on our smaller field. How do we do that on this big field? Cut the field in half.’
Clark said the idea was to push Providence to one direction, send his players that way with the intention on cutting off passing lanes and pressing the ball. Any turnovers, the Cougars pushed for a counter attack.
‘I think we executed it really well in the beginning,’ Clark said. ‘It worked. We wanted to take them out of their possession game, and I think we did that.’
Kaiser came off his line three times in the first 10 minutes to rein in Providence crosses near goal.
Opportunities for the Cougars were few, but forwards Isaac Gleitz and Luke Robertson made positive runs but couldn’t put together many quality shot attempts.
Kaiser had help from several defenders during the course of the afternoon as the sun went down. Senior Kris Freeberg took the role of central defender, while classmate Scotty Poole had a clearance in the 35th minute.
Providence got on the board with Rainier’s goal in the 36th. He nearly made the score 2-0 before half, but his booming strike was saved by Kaiser.
Out of the half, Providence picked up the pace on the offensive end, resulting in shots taken closer to goal.
Rainier took off on a long run after North Harrison attempted a counter to score a goal with 36:48 to go.
A pair of centering passes led to Providence’s next two goals. Both set up by Alex Lancaster crossing passes from the right, Joe Gryboski finished the first and Michael Gill the second.
‘I was hoping we’d get to 0-0 at the half, but we gave up that one goal,’ Clark said. ‘I knew (Providence) had to be motivated at the half. I bet they didn’t believe they’d be in that position at halftime.’
Soon after Providence’s fourth, Gleitz put a shot off his right boot on target, but keeper JD Castleberry knocked the ball down for a save.
In the closing 20 minutes, Kaiser was up to the challenge of saving many Pioneers’ shots. There were a few deflections over the bar on bending crosses and another where he recovered when facing one-on-one jukes to stop a shot from a centering pass.
‘They nearly made him look foolish on one, but he still made the stop,’ Clark said of his junior keeper. ‘He’s put a lot of time in. He’s a natural goal-keeper talent.’
Freeberg, who was the center of the defensive formation, left the field in the 63rd minute upon taking a Providence shot off his head. Clark said his senior checked out OK and lauded his efforts.
‘Ben (Waynescott) has always been strong at center back, and we’ve used Kris at outside back since he was a freshman,’ Clark said. ‘(Kris) impressed me today. He played well all year, but he took the challenge of this formation, being the center back, and played well.’
It was the first appearance in the sectional final for the North Harrison boys’ soccer program. The team graduates two seniors along with exchange student Daniel Setton.
‘I’m proud of the boys,’ Clark said. ‘They’ve worked hard this year. We’ve never been here before, so we got to experience playing in a final. We felt the pressure of it, and I think they handled it well. They were ready to play.’
Providence advanced to face Lawrenceburg tomorrow (Thursday) at the Switzerland County Regional. The opposite semi-final pits Southwestern against Henryville.