Providence Christian’s quest for its first boys state championship in school history fell short Saturday night in the Class A soccer final in Marietta.
After scoring in the game’s first three minutes, the Stars couldn’t hold off Walker’s ability to make the most out of loose balls in a 3-1 loss to the Wolverines (13-7-1).
The Stars (16-6) got off to a quick start, thanks one of Brent Hansen’s dangerous throw-ins.
An effective weapon all season, Hansen heaved the ball from the right sideline to the left side of the goal, where Matt McGlamery finished with a terrific header past Walker keeper Colin Mitchell. Providence led 1-0 with 37:45 on the clock.
Providence had a couple of clear chances in front of the goal before Walker evened the score with 11:48 left in the half, when Jacob Smith finished on a loose ball after a Walker corner kick. Providence couldn’t clear the ball out of the box and Smith capitalized.
The game’s biggest play came around two minutes later.
Providence keeper Evan Flowers and Smith chased after another loose when Walker sent a long ball that bounced into the top right corner of the penalty box. The players arrived at the ball at the same time and collided, but the referee called a foul on Flowers — which drew the ire of Providence fans — and awarded Walker a controversial penalty kick.
Jackson Bentley sent the PK low to the left past a diving Flowers for a 2-1 Walker lead.
“I think the penalty kick … that’s tough,” Providence coach Todd Henry said. “Not so much the goal, but that the penalty was called. Not to question the call, but whenever a penalty is called in the corner of the 18, it’s hard. The guys take that hard.”
The Wolverines scored again with 16 seconds left in the half after Providence’s Austin Keeler was yellow-carded when he and Walker’s Evan Kasian tangled outside the box. Kasian, who was involved in several moments of physical play the entire game, looked to have fouled Keeler before the yellow card, and Keeler was then carded while trying to go through Kasian for the ball.
On the ensuing free kick, Bentley touched the ball to the right to Smith, who chipped the ball into the box to Kasian. Kasian then volleyed the ball on the ground past Flowers for the goal.
“That gave them the opportunity to sit back in the second half,” Henry said. “And they didn’t have to pressure and they put a lot of guys in the box, which makes it harder to score.”
Walker did stiffen its defense in the second half but still had to push back several Providence advances on goal. The Stars had several legitimate chances, including Caleb McQuaig, who missed just left after a Hansen throw-in early in the half, Taylor Marshall, who missed just right from outside the box with 19 minutes left, and Hansen, who couldn’t finish with 13 minutes after the Walker keeper came out of position and left the goal open.
And nearly anytime Hansen had a throw-in, the Stars could count on the ball being placed in a danger area for Walker.
“Inch here, inch there,” Henry said. “We’re serving balls from back here from the sideline and we had a couple of opportunities. We put those in [for goals] the last couple of games. This game, we just missed a little wide, a little over the top. It’s a game of inches.”
Henry credited his team’s play-to-the-end effort in the game.
“The guys settled down and I’m really proud of them in the second half. Down 3-1, some teams would fold.
“Our guys were relentless and they never gave up.”
Providence, which has had four state titles in girls sports, still has a chance this spring to get one in boys. The baseball team plays in the Class A quarterfinals beginning Tuesday.