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Mill Creek boys soccer team regroups to take down Central in first round

HOSCHTON -- That quick jolt Mill Creek felt early in its Class AAAAA boys soccer state tournament first-round game against Central Gwinnett officially served as a wakeup call for the Hawks.

Trailing 1-0 just 2:37 into the game, Mill Creek regrouped and scored the next three goals in a span of 5:31 en route to a 3-1 win over Central.

With the win, Mill Creek (14-4-0) advances to a May 8 contest at East Coweta as the Indians (16-3-0) blanked Colquitt County 10-0.

Central Gwinnett jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead on the state's No. 8 team.

Bryan Castillo grabbed a Mill Creek turnover and knocked home a shot past Hawks' goal keeper Steven Arroyave at 37:23 of the first half.

But Mill Creek didn't panic and the Hawks went to work to take a 3-1 lead at the half.

Nick Muntean, a Region 7-AAAAA first-team selection, got it started for Mill Creek with a goal at 28:27 that came off an assist from Tony Baza.

Tajay Hoppines came right back with the go-ahead goal at 24:01 with an assist from Muntean to make it 2-1.

Mill Creek grabbed the two-goal advantage at 22:56 as Muntean got his second goal of the night on an assist from Hoppines, which was set up by a long kick from Arroyave.

Central, which ends its season at 11-7-0, didn't go quietly in the second half.

Twice the Black Knights had scoring chances in the final 12 minutes of the game, which would have cut the margin to one goal.

But Arroyave, who finished with five saves, came up with the key stops to keep the Mill Creek lead safe and a berth in the second round of the state tournament.

"This is the first playoff win for (Mill Creek)," said Mill Creek head coach Sean Garnett. "What else can you say? It's a young program that is reaching new heights and this senior class has seen it all. A 3-13 season three years ago and now we're advancing in the state tournament. It has been a building process and now they want to win. Our region (7-AAAAA) is tough and just to get through our region and into the state tournament says a lot."

Muntean led the way for Mill Creek with two goals and one assist while Hoppines had a goal and an assist.

Baza added two assists for the Hawks while Arroyave settled in at goal for the Hawks and blanked the Black Knights for the final 77 minutes.

For Muntean, this win meant a lot for the Mill Creek program.

"It feels amazing and unbelievable," said Muntean. "We made a good step last year when we made it to the playoffs and had a crushing loss at Walton. So to come out here tonight in front of our home fans, it's just a great feeling.

"That first goal kind of woke us and we needed that. But once we got our first goal, it really gave us the momentum."

Central also got a good game in goal from freshman Ricardo Ortiz, who had nine saves and kept the Black Knights within striking distance in the second half.