This past Saturday the Mingus Girls Soccer team set another building block to continue as an Arizona high school soccer power.
To the delight of all, the third annual Mingus Alumni game was played on a warm, sunny afternoon. The high level of play by the current Mingus team may be an omen of yet another trip to a state championship final. The close 4-3 win by the Mingus alumni in a highly competitive match, forced a level of respect from current Mingus players to those who came before them. Coach Buddy Rhodes, in a pre-game pep talk, reminded the players of the strong tradition which is well earned at Mingus and wistfully imagined that someday, even daughters of Mingus players might play as they did.
The game began with a bang, literally. Alum McKenzie Mabery, who now plays at Mesa Community College, launched a rocket 30-yard shot from the right wing which "banged" off the goal crossbar. This put a scare to the Mingus girls, who were caught a bit off guard by the initial aggression shown by the alumni.
The rest of the first quarter, the Mingus girls settled in and possessed and passed the ball well. The alumni scoring got started when 2010 graduate Deserata Braly sent a long 35-yard shot over the head of the Mingus goalkeeper and into the upper corner of the net. This ignited a nostalgic celebration by seven of the players from the 2010 State Championship team.
The veteran of this year's Alumni Team was Lisa Rauch, who is the current Mingus Girl's Cross Country Coach, and earlier that morning, had coached the Mingus girl runners to a 2nd place finish at state. She played solid defense the entire game and amazed the younger players at her fitness level.
Longtime Verde Valley soccer coach Craig Backus took on the coaching duties for the alumni.
"We were out to win this game" he said.
Mingus has many dangerous scorers and they tied it up with a goal by striker Martina Bueno. Mingus has many players back from last year's state final team, even though they only have four Seniors.
Captains Haley Backus and Emily Nelson provide leadership and fellow senior Gabby Guerro, in her final season, looks to get a lot of scoring. The Mingus scoring continued as Bueno sent a log shot from the right corner which bounced off the post and striker Daniella Santana hustled to send a beautiful volley into the net. Bueno scored Mingus' third goal on a breakaway with a move past alumni goalkeeper Shelby Hughes who now attends NAU.
The alumni scoring continued as Natalie Rivera, a senior at Grand Canyon University, scored off a quick shot from about 18-yards out. The next alumni score came off the foot of striker Nataly Escamilla, with a quick strike from about 20-yards out. Escamilla scored six goals as a freshman on the Scottsdale Community College women's team this year.
The final score for the alumni came from 2013 Mingus graduate Ashley Makuch, much to the chagrin of her younger sister Gabby who is on the current Mingus team. Rounding out this year's alumni squad was defender Riley Backus, Cassie Bailey and Ashley Roth.
Backus, a senior at NAU was heard saying "I'm going to keep coming back until I score a goal."
That's the kind of spirit that keeps the Mingus soccer program a perennial power. A soccer power indeed, having been to the state final game three-of-the-past-five years. Can this year make it four-of-six? Stay tuned. Mingus girls soccer first home match is Dec. 9, at 5 p.m.