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Mustangs boys soccer takes road show to Gilbert

#10 Sunrise Mountain stuns Casteel in 5A semifinal

Posted 2/21/24

GILBERT - Sunrise Mountain exacted some revenge and as an unlikely No. 10 seed will play for the state 5A boys soccer title on Saturday against Ironwood.

This run brought back memories for …

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Mustangs boys soccer takes road show to Gilbert

#10 Sunrise Mountain stuns Casteel in 5A semifinal


GILBERT - Sunrise Mountain exacted some revenge and as an unlikely No. 10 seed will play for the state 5A boys soccer title on Saturday against Ironwood.

This run brought back memories for Mustangs who played on the 2022 state finalists that made a surprising run as a seventh seed. It also buried some tougher memories

“It’s a great feeling,” said junior forward Kale Howell, whose second-half goal was the difference on Tuesday night. “Especially since they knocked us out two years in a row. Today was our day to prove it to them. Get it right.”

The Mustangs (18-4-2) took care of the proverbial monkey on their back on Tuesday at Perry High School in Gilbert by advancing past third-seeded Queen Creek Casteel (16-5) – who have eliminated Sunrise Mountain the last two seasons, in the first round a year ago and in the state final in 2022, both games going to overtime.

This time, it was the Mustangs on the right side of a 2-1 score, sending Casteel home in the penultimate round for the second straight year. The Colts lost to eventual state champion Phoenix Horizon in the semifinals last season.

“Things that usually are easy for us, they made very difficult for us, we were a little heavy on some split passes where I thought we were going to get inside, they were squeezing us real quick,” Casteel coach Greg Lanman said. “Compliments to them because they defended well, they stepped well, they shifted well, they won the battles in the air really well, and they took advantage of their two opportunities.”

Now one obstacle remains for Sunrise Mountain's first boys soccer state title, and it's the Mustangs' most familiar road block.

Top seeded Ironwood (18-3-1) beat Gilbert Campo Verde 1-0 in the other semifinal Tuesday. The Eagles beat Sunrise Mountain 5-0 on Jan. 18 in Peoria and has a 12-0 record against the Mustangs since 2004.

The 5A state final will be at 2 p.m. Saturday and has moved west to Greenway High School's turf field,  3930 W. Greenway Road, Phoenix.

The Mustangs backline – anchored by Luis Urias Garcia, Luke Curless and Gavin Richert – turned away the Colts all night. Casteel leading scorer Zach Lanman, who came in with 21 goals and eight assists, was marked and only got a few chances all night.

“It definitely feels like some revenge,” Mustangs coach Erik Andersen said. “They’ve eliminated us the last two years. They are always a very good team, well coached, good competition. It’s nice to be on the other side of it this time that’s for sure.”

After taking a 2-0 lead just a little more than seven minutes into the second half, Sunrise Mountain looked like it could coast and avoid any extra time.

Except for a bad bounce that gave Casteel life in the 60th minute, the Mustang defense held, repelling the Colts’ few quality chances and when Lanman’s header went wide at the horn, Sunrise Mountain had their revenge and a spot in Saturday afternoon’s championship.

The 5A semifinals on Tuesday night were at Perry since Casteel’s field is being upgraded to turf so the Colts have been playing their playoff games at Perry, a fellow Chandler Unified School District school.

Although the Mustangs didn’t have that many opportunities during Tuesday’s match, they did take advantage. Connor Halley turned just outside the goalbox, despite being double-teamed, his right-footer finding the net to put Sunrise Mountain up 1-0 in the 19th minute.

“I just found the bottom corner, through the defender’s legs, just simple, curve into the corner,” said Halley, who also had an open teammate out wide on the play. “I just wanted to take it.”

Halley and Howell teamed on the second – in the 47th minute. Howell got free, passing to Halley, whose heel backpass to Howell just inside the box was perfect for the team’s leading scorer (17 goals).

“I read the interception, I won the ball, I saw him and I saw the space behind and put it in the bottom of the right corner, where the keeper wasn’t,” Howell said.

With a little less than 20 minutes left, Sunrise Mountain was whistled for a handball in the goal box when a defender failed to head the ball, which then hit his arm. Jake Spain converted the subsequent penalty kick when Mustang goalkeeper Mason Tumey went to his right but Spain’s shot went straight up the middle.

“We had some opportunities but they weren’t really clean opportunities,” coach Lanman said. “It’s the semifinals, you’re not going to get that many quality shots because the defending is so good. We’ve faced these guys the last two years, and we beat them by a goal in overtime each of the last two years. We knew what we were in for, I wish we had a little more size on this team but hat’s off to them, they were good.”

Sunrise Mountain was already coming off a 1-0 upset at second-seeded Yuma Kofa and has now won eight in a row.

Even more surprising is that Sunrise Mountain has lost two starters earlier in the season and was without starting defender Madden Wydra on Tuesday due to injury.

“We’ve been really good with it all year,” Andersen said. “Kind of peaking at the right time, doing well with it and it will be fun to have that matchup with Ironwood.”