DENVER — As any young athletic program should expect, the Mead girls soccer team has had a wild ride through the past three years.
More unexpectedly, though, the Mavericks have not experienced much of the usual new-team ups-and-downs. They’ve been trending upward.
The Mavericks are 35-9-2 since becoming a varsity program in 2011. Despite reaching the postseason each year, they’re still 0-3 and searching for their first playoff win after a first-round 8-0 loss to Mullen in the Mavericks’ first trip to the Class 4A tournament.
“It’s been crazy but it’s been a lot of fun,” Mead’s Acacia Stephen said. “Our first couple years, we’ve found a good mesh together. It’s been so cool to be a part of this. 4A has definitely been different and tough but it’s been a good step for us. Nobody expected us to come out with such a bang but we did. For a new school, I don’t think as many people will underestimate us because we got so far these past three years.”
Entering last year’s 3A state tournament as the 14th seed, the Mavericks lost a first-round home game 2-1 to 19th-seeded Lutheran. Seeded 13th in 3A in 2011, they fell 5-3 in the first round to 20th-seeded Frontier Academy. They entered Tuesday’s game as the No. 26 seed in 4A.
Weathering an early onslaught from the host Mustangs, the Mavericks allowed goals in the 13th, 22nd, 30th and 32nd minutes to trail 4-0 at halftime. The Mustangs scored again in the 48th minute and three times in the last four minutes of the game.
Stephen said Tuesday’s playoff game was tougher than the Mavericks expected, and they didn’t match the Mustangs’ effort. But the loss, she said, provided them a more detailed blueprint for how to better prepare next season.
The Mavericks, who allowed 1.33 goals per game during the regular season, surrendered to the Mustangs 33 shots, 22 of which were on the goal. Mavericks junior goalkeeper Shayna Maypole made 14 saves, pushing her total to 155 denials in 17 games this season.
Maypole said the Mavericks never counted themselves out either before or during the game.
“I had quite a few saves and I’m proud of those saves,” Maypole said. “I wish we could have lost by less at least or tied or won. It’s just hard. We were coming into this game ready to play with heart and wanted to win. We thought we had a chance and we weren’t underestimating ourselves.”
They learned a tough lesson on Tuesday but overall, the Mavericks’ 2013 season was a successful one in the eyes of head coach Mike Schulz.
“Mullen deserved the seeding that they have and they came out and played like the seed that they are,” Schulz said. “I’m totally proud of these kids for what they accomplished in their first year in 4A. We have special kids out at Mead. They come out and they play hard. We can take a lot of lessons from this game and come back next year even better.”
The Mavericks will graduate nine seniors, most of whom were starters. But they’ll return plenty of talent, including Maypole.
Freshman forward Maddie Kessler scored a team-high 15 goals for the Mavericks and will return in 2014. Junior Morgan Lu, who notched 16 goals and eight assists as a sophomore, missed most of 2013 with a knee injury but will also return.
Whatever their roster looks like, the Mavericks will return with more experience and ambition in 2014.
“Now that we know we can actually make it, we’re going to try even harder and come back stronger,” Maypole said. “Our hope is to make it past the first round.”
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Mullen 8, Mead 0
At Mullen H.S.
Mead (10-4-2) 0 0 — 0
Mullen (9-4-3) 4 4 — 8
Goals (assists) — Mullen: Devin Kelly, 13th minute; Sabrina VanHorn, 22nd minute; Hunter Rooney, 30th minute; Tara Grieshaber (Rooney), 32nd minute; VanHorn , 48th minute; Reagan Weber, 77th minute; Megan Delmonico, 78th minute; VanHorn, 79th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Mead: Shayna Maypole (77-6-14), Bailey Parker (3-2-1). Mullen: Taylor Valde (80-0-0).