JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The biggest assist Joey Mueller got didn’t set up a goal on the soccer field.
Mueller, the All-News4JAX boys soccer player of the year, rebounded from an injury-marred junior season to shine in his final year with Creekside. It was more than just Mueller’s position shift of going from center-midfielder to forward that opened the door for a breakthrough season.
It was finally being healthy — with a major assist from a local physical therapist — that unlocked Mueller’s soccer potential and left him with a new focus on his future. The UCF signee scored 29 goals and had 13 assists for the Knights, leading them to the Region 1-7A finals and a 15-4-2 season.
More than statistics, though, was Mueller’s realization that his future beyond soccer could be tied to sports medicine and helping others like he was helped in his recovery from sports injuries.
“Seeing it firsthand it’s just different,” Mueller said. “Being the subject of your own experiment is, it’s humbling. And I can tell you before I got injured and everything, I was never chronically injured. I was not thinking about sports medicine or any of this stuff at all. I was probably not thinking about at all. if anything, going down like business [in college], you know and branching off. That passion developed through injuries and meeting the right person. The rest is history.”
Mueller had a series of ankle injuries during his club season at Florida Elite and was plagued by those for months. He’d try and overcompensate for favoring his injured ankle and it threw his healthy one out of alignment. Tendonitis settled in on Mueller’s other foot and threw his whole frame out of sorts.
That put him on the shelf for all but three games in 2021.
“Obviously when you watch it from the sidelines, it’s a lot more frustrating, you see a lot more of the stuff that’s not pretty,” Mueller said. “I mean, I missed it. Those were my good senior friends. I had a really good connection with them, and it was a pain not to be able to contribute to their season.”
That frustration ultimately led to appreciation when Mueller connected with Valerie Spees, a local physical therapist who helped completely transform his health and recovery.
Mueller said Spees was the key to his senior season and gave him a new vantage point on how the sports performance side of things works. Mueller said he was so inspired by the work Spees did for him and several friends that it pushed him into a new direction off the field. Mueller said that he’ll focus on kinesiology in college at UCF.
“The feeling of being able to help somebody else through what I went through, it’s really cool to me, and I definitely have an appreciation for keeping the body healthy,” he said. “And now where I’m at since I’ve been healthy for a good amount of time now, it’s I have an appreciation for the performance side of it.”
With a healthy and balanced body, Mueller on the field was electric in 2022 for the Knights. The physical skills had always been there, but the confidence created by being fully healthy was visible.
Mueller started out as a center midfielder for the Knights but said that he felt that he wasn’t doing enough to help at that position. So, Mueller said that coach Cameron Crandall moved him to the forward spot and things changed immediately.
“It was just lights out,” he said. “When I moved up there it was like, I had confidence going in and then I started producing all these goals and I just couldn’t stop. It was so much fun.”
ALL-NEWS4JAX BOYS SOCCER FIRST TEAM
Position, Player, School, Class
D Sean Breuer, Bolles, Sr.
Had 13 assists and 4 goals for the Bulldogs, also playing a bit of midfield, too. Second team All-News4JAX selection last year.
D Kristian Fischer, Stanton, Sr.
Serious production from his defender role. Had 17 goals, 5 assists for 18-6-2 Blue Devils.
D Sasha Maric, Mandarin, So.
Had 2 assists and a goal but was an absolute lockdown defender for the state semifinalist Mustangs.
F Diego Barrera, St. Augustine, Sr.
The area’s leading goal-scorer, he found the net 33 times and had 6 assists.
F Joey Mueller, Creekside, Sr.
All-News4JAX player of the year had a breakout final season for the Knights. Had 29 goals and 13 assists for the 15-4-2 regional finalist Knights. Has signed with UCF.
F/MF Antonio Mancinotti, Mandarin, Jr.
Had 30 goals and 15 assists for the 17-4 Mustangs and led team to Class 7A state semifinals. Has scored double figures in goals each of his three seasons. Has 51 goals, 38 assists in his career. Second team All-News4JAX selection last year.
F Martin Pinieros, Bishop Kenny, Sr.
Had 12 assists, 11 goals for 16-9-1 Crusaders. Second team All-News4JAX selection last year.
MF Brogan Donnelly, Nease, Jr.
Led the Panthers in goals (13) and assists (8) while playing the most minutes on the team (1,654).
MF Michael Hilbert, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
Versatile player 3 goals and 3 assists for the Sharks, who finished 16-1-3.
MF Braden Hill, Oakleaf, Sr.
Had 17 goals and 12 assists for the 16-2 Knights. Has signed with Florida Southern.
MF Andres Villasana, Ponte Vedra, Jr.
Scored 8 goals and assisted on 6 others for 16-1-3 Sharks.
GK Lincoln Hunt, Bolles, Sr.
Top keeper mentioned by area coaches and a two-time All-News4JAX selection. Halved his goals allowed (from 16 in 2021 to 8 this year). Made 68 saves and had a 0.53 goals against average.
Pos., Player, School, Class
D Zack Bender, Creekside, Sr.
D Sam Grant, Stanton, Sr.
D Will Moore, Bolles, Sr.
F Cade Greenwald, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
F C.J. Joyner, Suwannee, Sr.
F Akiendele-May-Parker, Oakleaf, Jr.
MF Joseph Alberto, Stanton, Sr.
MF Matthew Male, Fleming Island, Sr.
MF Dimani Mathlin, Bartram Trail, Jr.
MF Adis Mesic, Mandarin, Jr.
MF Luke Williams, Bartram Trail, Jr.
GK Sebastian Brunner, Stanton, Sr.
Pos., Player, School, Class
F Pedro Alarcon, Mandarin, Sr.
D Bruno Alves, Atlantic Coast, Jr.
F Drew Ammon, Oakleaf, Jr.
GK Max Bennett, Ridgeview, Sr.
D Evan Bohms, Creekside, So.
D Ryan Borsheim, Clay, Sr.
F Kaii Carrington, Fletcher, Jr.
F Myles Clymer, Flagler Palm Coast, Sr.
F Jesus Cruz, Crescent City, Jr.
D Philip Cruz, St. Augustine, So.
D Logan Dailey, Fleming Island,
D Will Dannheim, Episcopal, Sr.
MF Dru Detlefsen, St. Johns CD, Sr.
GK Brogan Earley, Bartram Trail, So.
D Shepherd Eason, Fleming Island, Sr.
MF Noah Eaton, Fleming Island, Sr.
F Jacob Graston, St. Johns Country Day, Jr.
F Cooper Griffis, Baker County, Sr.
F Nathan Hawara, Bishop Kenny, Sr.
MF Chan Hrin, Wolfson, Jr.
MF Ryan Hunt, St. Joseph, Sr.
MF Joseph Jimenez, Bishop Kenny, Jr.
F Sebastian Joinville, Yulee, Jr.
GK Ben Kopach, Matanzas, Jr.
F Jack Leake, Bolles, Sr.
MF Nick Lentsch, Creekside, Sr.
F Jonathan Luce, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
D William Manaute, Menendez, Jr.
D Jake McGowan, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
GK Brendan McNeil, St. Johns CD, Sr.
GK Jake Moran, Bishop Kenny, Sr.
D Isaiah Morgan, Fletcher, Sr.
D Aaron Novak, Ponte Vedra, Sr.
D Kristian Palenik, Mandarin, Jr.
F Rojeh Saadi, Englewood, Sr.
F Logan Spence, Keystone Heights, Jr.
MF Ryan Svela, Fletcher, Sr.
MF Abram Wilson, St. Joseph, So.