COVINGTON -- Providence Christian School is ready to take another leap of faith as it prepares to change athletic associations for the second time in as many years.
Providence competed in the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama association last season and is moving to the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association for the upcoming year.
"This is a brand new association. We really fought through this decision; it was a tough decision to make," Providence Athletic Director Mike Sabo said. "Advantages of this new association (are) that we have a chance to be in a region with more local teams. We'll still have some travel, but for the most part it won't be as bad as it was. Last year in volleyball, the travel time was twice as long as it took to play the game in Augusta."
Sabo said the school was not unhappy with the ICSGA. Providence felt it was best for the student-athletes.
Last season, the only sports Providence participated in were girls volleyball and boys soccer. The GICAA will give Providence the opportunity to increase that list.
"The GICAA is offering all that, so we have an avenue to put teams together and they'll be able to compete in a good competitive environment with good structure where we have something to play for, a potential for a championship," Sabo said. "We would like to see our athletic program be full across the board. As our school fills out and our school grows, this will give an opportunity to our kids. This year they're looking at having 30-plus schools as members for their first year."
Providence took a leap last year when it joined ICSGA. When the Lady Warriors took the volleyball court, they did so with a six-player team, which meant they had no margin for injuries or substitutes.
"We finished the season with six girls," Sabo said. "We had three seniors and the next oldest was a freshman, then we had two eighth-graders and that was our team. We played a 15-game season with 11 region games, and we survived. That was our victory because we didn't lose anybody to injury. We battled, we didn't win any region games, but we battled and came close a couple of times. Now we're going to be young again this season. We've got a couple of juniors, a sophomore, a freshman and possibly some eighth- and seventh-graders."
In the GICAA, players from seventh grade and above may participate at the varsity level. The junior varsity level starts with sixth-graders.
Even though the boys soccer team was outmanned with only 13 players available to fill the 11 spots, it managed to turn a lot of heads by hosting a playoff game.
The Warriors team had an eight-game win streak, finishing their first year of varsity play with a 12-3 record.
The boys soccer team, which scored 53 goals last season, were led in scoring by Jace Roper, who had 19 goals, followed by Ethan Stanley with 15 and Peter Waddy with nine.
"Last season, we were expecting the same expectations (as volleyball) -- lets just compete," Sabo said. "We may not win many games. Let's keep our kids to persevere, to battle through a tough season. In the playoffs, we were just happy to host the first round. That was a big step for us. It was an exciting thing."
Before making the move to play at the varsity level, Providence first gives the athletes a chance to test the waters to see if they're interested in taking it to the next level. Another reason for joining the new association is that the almost 40 students eligible to play varsity sports are ready to make the required commitment.
"Everything we've done we've introduced slowly," Sabo said. "The next step is to talk to our students and see if they would be interested. So we hope to field a girls soccer team. This next year what we hope to offer competitive cross country, and we're actually going to host a couple of meets here in September. We're looking at basketball, but we may not compete. We may do a short-modified season just to see if there is interest in something we want to grow."
Other sports in the works will include swimming, golf and tennis.
"We're a Christian school and some of the things we emphasize are a Christ-centered approach to all of our classes, and we incorporate that into athletics as well," Sabo said.