The Providence Day girls soccer team began its season 4-3 last year, then followed the mediocre start with a magical ride. The Chargers reeled off 17 consecutive wins, went undefeated for the first time ever in conference play, won the league title for the first time since the mid-1990s and won the school’s first-ever girls soccer state championship with a 2-1 victory over Greensboro Day.
While the roster has changed and the makeup of this team is vastly different than last year, the results have remained the same. The Chargers started the year 6-0-1 (through April 2) and are ranked No. 1 in the private-school Class 3A rankings by Eurosportscorecard.com.
“Last year it was that we were the underdogs and no one knew about us; it was a different type of push because we wanted to prove ourselves,” said junior forward Lauren Lucas, who scored the winning goal in last year’s championship game and leads this year’s team with eight goals.
“This year it’s reproving ourselves. We’re there and people know about us, but we don’t want to be one and done – we want to build a strong program. Winning a championship is the ultimate goal, but it’s about building the program first. And every game is different (this year) and I think that gives us a new incentive to do well.”
The Chargers have started their title defense by pairing the success of last year and the promise of a new beginning with the desire to end this year the same way they walked off the field last year – as champions.
But they know, with last year’s success, they’ll need to be on top of their games each time they step on the field. So far they’ve done just that.
“We talked about having a target on our backs but I think it’s helpful, it keeps you mentally prepared for every battle because you never know what will happen. But you have to be prepared for anything,” said senior forward and Appalachian State commit Morgan Mosack, who is second on the team with three goals.
“Since we took on so many new players on our roster this year, we have to be good leaders and set the expectations high. We have to be positive in what we tell them and how we coach them.”
And so far, despite losing last season’s leading scorer Alli Gray, who moved out of the state, and four seniors who graduated, the Chargers continue to roll on with 16 freshmen and sophomores lining the defending champ’s talented roster.
“Offensively we both have bigger roles this year with Alli Gray leaving,” Lucas said. “There are going to be some games where we’re going to have to step it up to find the back of the net. I think we can do it.”
So far they have. With Lucas and Mosack – who were both 2013 all-state selections – joining senior Caroline Smith, sophomore Stephanie Britt and freshman Carson Jones as the Chargers’ main scorers, they’ve flourished.
In addition to the blazing beginning, Providence Day has already avenged one of its losses from last season. The Chargers fell to Wilmington Hoggard, 2-1, on March 25, 2013, marking the last time the Chargers lost – a span covering 23 games and more than a calendar year.
In their 2-2 tie to Hoggard on March 14 this year, the Chargers played without several players – including Lucas – who were traveling for spring break and overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit on scores by Smith and Burt to keep their unbeaten streak alive.
It’s that kind of show of fortitude that coach Dan Dudley has been preaching since taking over the program last season.
“We have to do our homework on the teams that we play, be prepared and put our chances away when we can,” Dudley said. “I want to be realistic. As long as we play well, I’ll be happy. Last year everything fell into place and we flew under the radar. It’s not like that this year.”
Dudley said he realizes his team is going to need a diverse scoring attack and consistently good defense to stay on top, especially with their opponents gunning to knock the defending state champions each game.
And so far, their depth and balance have been the biggest keys to their success. Ten Chargers have scored goals, and they’re led defensively by senior goalkeeper Emma Pixley – who has combined with sophomore Kate Stewart to allow just three goals this season and record five shutouts. And as good as the last line of defense is, the entire back six is experienced and talented.
“The defense is about winning every ball in the air and on the ground,” Mosack said. “Maddie Rogers is doing a good job leading and (she) and Camille (Appleby) are playing well. Really it’s our whole defense playing well.”
With everything seemingly coming together, the Chargers will rely on the leadership of Mosack and Lucas when times get tough. That, Dudley said, is a major strength heading into conference play where the Chargers have begun 1-0 after a convincing 5-0 win over Charlotte Country Day on April 1.
“I think the standard they set is great,” Dudley said. “They both play at high levels of club ball and they’re both going to go on and play after school at the next level. I think they bring their experiences over the years from traveling around the country to the core group and it sort of bleeds into what’s expected from them. The girls are seeing it from these guys and that’s what I want. It’s about the program and they’re leaving their
Even with last year’s success and the hot beginning to this year, Lucas said the Chargers’s road to where they want to get still may be a bumpy one, but one they want to travel together.
“It’s a clean slate,” Lucas said. “Since it’s a new team we can remember that we were state champs and think about it, but we have to think about this year and what we need to get done.”
Dudley said he can see this team coming together and said if they do, he can see the Chargers having another brilliant season.
“I want people to keep talking about this team and the only way to do that is if we keep moving forward in the right direction,” he said. “I want this team to make an imprint and that’s what I tell them all the time, ‘Look, if one-and-done is our imprint, we’re not going to go very far.’
“We did it last year and it was a great journey, but we don’t want to stop at that, we want to do it again. We got everyone’s attention last year and now we want to keep it on us.”