Providence High girls soccer player Lauren Ellis said it’s been a wild week at school.
The Panthers, ranked No. 2 in the N.C. 4A coaches poll, beat No. 5 Lake Norman on penalty kicks Tuesday night to advance to the fourth state championship appearance in school history. That same night, the Panthers baseball team beat Butler in the first game of a best-of-3 state semifinal series.
Thursday, the Panthers baseball team beat Butler again to qualify for next week’s state championship series. The Panthers volleyball team reached the state final back in November.
“To have three sports in school to make in the same year is special,” Ellis said. “It’s been a hectic week.”
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Saturday, girls soccer gets its shot at winning a state ring. Providence, ranked No. 9 nationally by Top Drawer Soccer, will face No. 5 Panther Creek Saturday at 11:05 a.m. at N.C. State’s Dail Soccer Field.
“It’s definitely been cool,” Ellis said, “with us going to the final and baseball going, too. We hope a lot of people come up this weekend, and we think they will because people have really been coming up to us and congratulating us. It’s really neat to make it this far because it doesn’t happen often.”
Providence (23-1-1) is the finals for the first time since 2006. The Panthers beat Raleigh Broughton 2-1 for the ‘97 championship and lost to Broughton 3-2 in 2001 and 1-0 in 2006.
Providence has made its way back to the finals with a rookie coach, Nathan Williams, a tough defense, and six college signees including Ellie Deaver (Charlotte), Michaela Daniels (Eastern Kentucky) and Lizzie Melching (Queens).
That Panthers defense has allowed five goals in 25 games. They’ve won seven matches in a row. Six are by shutout. Providence has scored 123 goals this season.
“It’s our ability to get back and defend,” Ellis said. “We have a really athletic and strong defense. We have three of our five main defenders committed to play college soccer, which is pretty cool. Offense helps us out a lot but we have a really good keeper (junior Lizzie Wilson) that keeps us scoreless. The goals that have been scored are really goals we shouldn’t have let in.”
Like Providence, Panther Creek’s defense is a strength. The Catamounts (19-0-2), who lost to Hough in the 2014 state final, have outscored opponents 55-6 and have won five straight games. Panther Creek tied Cary Green Hope 1-1 and came to Charlotte this spring and tied Myers Park 1-1 (Providence beat Myers Park 3-0 at home in April).
Panther Creek will also probably enjoy a home field advantage of sorts. Providence fans will drive nearly three hours to get to the game. Panther Creek is about 15 minutes away.
Ellis said her team is ready to play wherever it needs to play.
“We know they’re undefeated and they have a couple of girls committed to Charlotte and (East Carolina),” Ellis said. “They’ll be good and they went to state last year. They’ll definitely be wanting to win. But we’re ready. We definitely want to win, too. It’s all going to fall into place when we step on that field, we hope. They’ll have more experience, being there last year, but we have passion and determination to pull though.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr