Amber Gwinn still playing, still happy
Though bundled on a frigid Saturday night in April, there was no mistaking Amber Gwinn’s smile as she watched 10-year-olds battle it out during the Comstock Shootout Goalie Wars at Edmonds Sports Complex.
After all, Gwinn remembers playing in the inaugural Comstock Shootout in 1993. She remembers winning a championship at the Comstock Shootout while playing for the Ken Girdner-coached Carson Valley Rebels, which, turned out to be practice for championships she would later experience while playing at Douglas High School and then at Lassen College in Susanville, Calif.
“I love to come out here and watch,” Gwinn said. “It’s interesting to see how it’s grown and how many teams still come to it and to see all the kids who are involved in it.”
She remembers being one of those young kids playing age group soccer in the springtime and having a dream of playing at higher levels – a dream she is now getting the chance to live out.
Coming off magical season in which Lassen advanced to the California community college women’s soccer championship match and Gwinn emerged as one of the state’s leading offensive players last fall, the 5-foot-6 midfielder is now preparing to move on to play Division I soccer for Sacramento State University.
“I just dreamed I would be able to continue playing and my dream’s coming true. I play my heart out and give all that I got. I play every day like it’s my last day,” said Gwinn, who worked as a field monitor during the two-day tournament.
“All the hard work is definitely paying off,” she added. “I think going from Douglas to a junior college is the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Gwinn was a two-sport standout in high school who helped the Douglas girls soccer and basketball programs win zone tournament championships for the first time in school history – her junior soccer season in 2000 and senior basketball season in 2002. She led the team in scoring two different seasons at Douglas, then took her game to a new level at Lassen, where she had 42 goals and 50 assists in two seasons. She ranked as the sixth leading scorer in California women’s juco soccer this past season with 24 goals and 27 assists.
Lassen went 23-1 overall and was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation this past season, its lone loss coming in the state community college tournament finals against Long Beach City College at the Oliveira Soccer Complex in Lemoore. The state title was Long Beach City’s fourth in four years.
“Long Beach City was a great team, but I think if we’d had another day or two to prepare for them, because we had such a great big game on Saturday, we probably would have been able to handle them,” Gwinn said.
Just the day before Gwinn contributed two assists, the last on a corner kick for Sophie LeChat’s game-winning goal in the 88th minute, as Lassen defeated Cypress 3-2 in the state semifinals.
“Beating Cypress was big to us,” Gwinn said. “I believe Cypress was a better team than Long Beach City, that’s why we weren’t so upset about it. Because Cypress is better, we feel we stepped up and beat the better team.
“When we got into Cypress and Long Beach, those are the kinds of games you need to play to prepare yourself for Division I.”
Now, she is looking forward to taking another step up the soccer ladder to play for the Sacramento State Hornets.
“I’m excited,” Gwinn said. “I’m interested to see how much different level is at Division I to our junior college level because I feel that we were just as good as some Division I if not better than some Division II schools. I’ll be interested to see what kind of talent is at that level.”
Playing for coach Ben Wade at Lassen was good preparation for this challenge, she believes.
“He’s prepared us for a lot. I don’t think I could be any better prepared to go to a Division I school,” Gwinn said of Wade. “It’s just a matter of putting in the work. The work pays off. I’m out there every day shooting, I’m in the gym every day weight lifting and if not in the basketball gym shooting on the mini goals during the day.”
It just makes Gwinn appreciate the memories from those youth tournaments years ago all the more. And yes, Gwinn will be back in Carson City working this Saturday and Sunday when the girls portion of the Comstock Shootout brings 96 teams to town. While she works, longtime teammate and fellow Douglas grad, Kali Schmidt (now a student at UNLV), will be playing for a Las Vegas Under-19 age group team.
“It does because every time I see a team do something,” Gwinn said, laughing about her Comstock Shootout memories. “I always turn back around and ask Brenda (Schmidt), remember that day we drank a root beer float before the championship game and got in trouble with Ken (Girdner, Carson Valley Rebels coach),” Gwinn said, laughing. “It’s funny to look back on what we did when we were little. Things I would never do today during soccer, it’s funny how laid back we were, but we were such a great team, we were able to come in and win a tournament.”
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1220.