Welcome back, A.J. Gamueda.
Mullen also got back to being Mullen on Tuesday in a 6-2 victory over Smoky Hill in the first round of the Centennial League playoffs in the new Season C.
Not only did the Mustangs, now 7-1, advance to the league semifinals on Thursday against Cherry Creek, but they celebrated the return of Gamueda, their leading scorer, after being quarantined from the coronavirus (COVID-19); they aren’t looking at playing three matches in three days (plus two overtimes) like they had to last week (although the snow is expected to come by early Wednesday); and they got back to scoring lots of goals. Their 31 tops the Class 5A-based league and are ninth in 4A, all against 5A foes.
Gamueda, now tied for the team lead in goals at eight (with Eli Kerschen) after missing two games the past week, turned in two goals and two assists (he also leads the team with six), and said “I missed the boys, missed the team … I just missed playing.”
He must have – he scored a goal in the first half and added an assist, as did Kerschen.
In addition, when Smoky Hill, which pushed the Mustangs in a 4-3 match the past Saturday, got within 2-1 in the first half and leveled it at 2 early in the second, in order, Gamueda, Kerschen, Jack Sargent and Jorge Valdez responded with goals to put it away.
“Yeah, I think one of the greatest strengths of our team is resilience,” Cole Dempsey, one of the Mustangs captains, said. “We can always come back; we’re never out of a fight. We were tied 2-2 and we end up winning 6-2.
“Going forward, we definitely have some of the strongest players in the league. Definitely, our attacking four are very strong.”
Mustangs head coach Matthew Guglielmo said “six goals, that’s a lot … and the league semifinals, very good … we made a couple of adjustments again and it made us look good. Every time (Gamueda) touches the ball, a goal or assist can come.”
Mullen players’ ability to make adjustments and adapt on the fly during matches, Guglielmo said, has proven as vital as consistent as “they listen … they’re good like that.”
The Mustangs will get a second match with Cherry Creek on Thursday, April 15, at home. Mullen won 3-2 on March 27 and ended a 12-year, 11-match skid against the Bruins. It had been 0-9-2 against Colorado’s largest school.
“I’m very confident in the team,” Gamueda said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep playing the game like it’s our last.”
MULLEN 6, SMOKY HILL 2
Smoky Hill 1 1 -- 2
Mullen 2 4 -- 6
Mullen goals – A.J. Gamueda 2, Eli Kerschen 2, Jack Sargent, Jorge Valdez.
Mullen assists – A.J. Gamueda 2, Cole Dempsey, Eli Kerschen, Ethan Lehman.