COLORADO SPRINGS — When Peak to Peak boys soccer last lost to Colorado Academy, midway through October, the Mustangs couldn’t have known what kind of animal they would awaken within the Pumas.
On Saturday at Weidner Field, the two teams met again — this time as the No. 7 and No. 1 seeds, respectively — in a battle for Class 3A state championship glory. The top-seeded Mustangs secured their sixth state title with a 2-1 victory over Peak to Peak to end the Pumas’ seven-game winning streak that CA unintentionally ignited.
That 2-0 regular season setback provided just the right spark for Peak to Peak to drive harder and strive for more, eventually leading to a deep postseason.
“I think that in many ways, they recognized that they could play with the top team in the state, and kudos to Colorado Academy,” head coach James Wagenschutz said. “I mean, they’ve been arguably the best team all season, and then they put a stamp on it in the final, so congratulations to them.
“When you play a stronger and more athletic team, I think that can intimidate players and what the loss earlier in the season, in October, said was that we’re not far off. And through the last month and a half, we kept going and kept proving that we deserve to be here.”
The Pumas finished their season with a 15-4-1 record in arguably the classification’s toughest league, which sent six teams to the state tournament, Colorado Academy among them. They very nearly pulled off the upset or, at least, forced a first overtime when, down 2-1, junior midfielder Kyle Thengvall launched a ball over the top of Colorado Academy keeper Matthew Kintzele’s head and right into the crossbar with 10 minutes left.
Earlier in the day, junior middy Jorden Gyaltsen broke a 2-0 shutout with a penalty kick that outsmarted Kintzele with ease. That score in the 25th minute offset an unfortunate 27 seconds for the Pumas, during which CA’s Simeon Woldeyohannes netted not one, but two goals.
Gyaltsen, one of the Pumas’ captains, credited Wagenschutz for leading the program not only to its second title game appearance but toward a strong future within the Metro League and beyond.
“I think without Wags, this program would have no chance of being where it is today,” Gyaltsen said. “He gives us confidence. He gives us what we need to keep battling through every battle. I think that’s what helped us get here today. Wags is a great coach.”
Since Wagenschutz first took over the program, during the COVID-delayed spring season in 2021, the Pumas have improved from their worst season in a decade in 2019 to a state runner-up in three short seasons.
Gyaltsen believes that his team — which will only be saying goodbye to four seniors after the exit of over half their roster last season — can only go up from here. “We’re going to win next year, that’s for sure,” he said.
Wagenschutz gave it all to the boys.
“Credit to every player buying into the concept that it was ‘we before me,’ and that the team and the program mattered more,” Wagenschutz said. “I think that after a season like last year, where we had 14 seniors leaving, we needed to instill a sense of leadership. Jorden, Matthew (Wolsko) and Eddie (Castilleja) were fantastic leaders this year as captains. Everybody played a role and everybody led in their own way.”