Add another historic chapter to the pages of this year’s Providence Christian girls athletics record book.
The Lady Eagles soccer team earned the program’s first postseason victory Saturday, shutting out Bayside Academy 2-0 in an AHSAA Class 1A-4A first-round match at the Providence Christian campus.
It’s the third postseason achievement this academic year for the girls athletics program at Providence. Earlier, the girls volleyball team won a second straight state title and the girls basketball team advanced to the state semifinals for the first time.
Saturday’s win came after five straight first-round losses from 2008 to last year for the PCS girls soccer program.
“It is exciting to get to the next level,” said Providence Christian senior Elizabeth Dowd, a part of all three teams this season. “It is kind of the same feeling as it was in basketball in moving on from where you were last year.
“It is nice to see an improvement instead of the same pace. It is the goal we got past. It is exciting to see how far we can go.”
Providence (8-3-2) will try to add to the achievement in a second-round match at home Tuesday against UMS-Wright, a 2-0 winner Saturday over Houston Academy.
“I am very proud of the girls,” Providence coach Danielle Lee said, working through her laryngitis. “They have reached a huge milestone for the program and for the school to be able to get past the first round.
“Our girls just needed to believe in themselves and we pushed them to take it to the next level. They believed in one another and it showed on the field.”
Emily Cox, who scored a key goal 31 seconds into the second half to make the margin 2-0, said the win wasn’t just for the current Lady Eagles, but also for Mark Foster, a Dothan police officer and father of Lady Eagle teammate Hannah Foster, who died unexpectedly last December of natural causes.
“Every time we go out, everybody puts 705, his (badge) number, on our arm,” Cox said. “Before the game, we had a talk and said we are not just doing this for ourselves and for our school, but we are doing it for Mark Foster and his family and always keeping him with us. That motivated us and helped us play better.”
Defense powered Providence in Saturday’s win. Bayside Academy, which finished the year 8-12-5, had only six shots on goal, but all but one were long-range shots that were well wide or were soft dribbles that PCS goalkeeper Brooke Segler easily stopped.
The Lady Admirals’ most serious threat came on a corner kick late in the first half when Emily Wright centered to the middle of the box. Segler punched it back, but a Lady Admiral was right there and quickly fired a shot, but it was well over the goal.
The only other major threat came a few minutes later when Wright had a free kick from the sideline and Segler came out, leaped and caught it.
Offensively, Providence didn’t have a lot of shots on goal, attempting only nine shots, and only a handful were good opportunities.
Cox converted one of those chances seconds after the start of the second half, taking a through ball (a pass between defenders into open space between the fullback and goalkeeper) from Dowd, who was just past midfield when she sent the pass.
Cox, after working off a defender to her left, dribbled once then fired a shot as she neared the top of the 18 box and it dribbled past the left side of the keeper. The score came just 31 seconds into the second half with 39:29 remaining and made it 2-0 Providence.
“We work a lot on passing on through balls,” Cox said. “That’s how I scored. We run it through the defense and it is one-on-one with you and the goalie.”
Lee said the designed play was well run by her team.
“We practice through balls from midfield and having the other person rush to it quickly,” Lee said. “That was a perfectly executed play by Emily.”
Bayside had only two more shots on goal and one corner kick chance the rest of the way. The Eagles, behind the booming kicks in the back by Gage Weeks and smart play in the midfield, kept sending the ball upfield and controlling the action.
Providence scored its first goal 19 minutes into the contest after Dowd was decked to the ground just inside midfield and a foul was called on Bayside. Weeks directed a free kick toward the box and after it bounced around for a second, Dowd poked a shot with her right leg into the right side of the net, making it 1-0 with 20:59 left in the opening half.
“I kind of set up diagonally from her (Weeks) and she was tossing it over to me,” Dowd said. “I think it hit my head and another girl and I just kicked it in.”
Lee said it was a familiar sight seeing Dowd score.
“She is just a great finisher,” Lee said. “She makes her teammates look good because she can finish so good.”
Despite the win, Lee said the Lady Eagles didn’t play well.
“We weren’t communicating and we played kind of hopeful,” Lee said, adding she didn’t see her team “executing the plan” much.
Dowd added, “We didn’t play our best, but we finished (shots) when we needed to finish. We could have passed better and communicated better, but finished when we had to finish.”
As a result, Providence will move on to the second round for the first time in girls’ soccer program history.