Mullen rallies to push way past Montrose
DENVER — For a No. 13 seed that had traveled close to six hours, Montrose’s boys soccer team looked nothing like an underdog Saturday morning.
The Indians jumped on top of Mullen early, and even after giving up a pair of goals to fall behind, Montrose never allowed the Mustangs to pull away in the second round of the CHSAA Class 4A state playoffs. The Mustangs eventually came away with the 2-1 victory, but Montrose coach Jim Pavlich found no fault in his players when it came to effort.
“I’m proud as heck of the boys,” Pavlich said. “They played quality soccer from start to finish.”
Mullen (9-5-3), the No. 4 overall seed, advanced to next week’s quarterfinal round, though not without a fight. Montrose (10-6-1) needed less than four minutes to get on the scoreboard, with Mustangs goalkeeper Andy Mott stopping a long shot by Cade English before losing his grip. The ball rolled away, and the Indians’ Alec Rose was there to clean things up and give the Indians the lead.
Mullen didn’t land the equalizer until slightly more than seven minutes remained in the first half. A cross in front of the net was deflected, and Mullen’s Troy Branigan headed the ball past Indians goalkeeper Tyler Cayo.
“We had those kinds of opportunities as well, where the ball was bouncing around and we had the opportunity to smash it back through,” Cayo said. “It didn’t quite break our way.”
The Mustangs went ahead for good six minutes into the second half, with junior Sean Mahre sending the ball past Cayo, who was on the ground after trying to stop a previous attempt.
“It was just a quality finish,” Pavlich said.
Montrose had a few chances down the stretch, but Mullen’s defense was up to the task, never allowing a clean attempt. Mott finished with six saves.
Cayo and the Montrose defense was just as strong, though, allowing only two shots on goal in the second half.
“The coolest thing for me was in the last 10 minutes,” Pavlich said. “When we needed a goal, what did you see my team doing? They’re holding the ball, they’re moving it up disciplined, trying to get a good opportunity.”
The loss marked the end of the road for the team’s 12 seniors, who had helped lead Montrose to the 5A/4A Southwestern League crown this fall. Pavlich said what he enjoyed most was that his players, whether on the field or on the bench, were always 100 percent in, and it was an honor to coach them.
Cayo echoed those sentiments.
“It’s been an absolute honor to be with these guys. You can look at any senior on that team, and there’s leadership coming from that guy,” Cayo said. “We’ve all played together since we were 10 years old. It’s been incredible.”