A few seasons might be left in Spencer Wagner’s plan to build Regis Jesuit into a field hockey contender, but he likes what he sees in Year No. 4.
The Raiders have gradually improved over the past few seasons, but have yet to quite break into the elite segment of what is a small group of teams.
That could happen this season, as Wagner finally has a group of experienced players capable of starting the season strong.
“This is the first time we’ve had a starting lineup with four years of experience,” said Wagner, whose team finished 4-9-3 last season. “What it allows us to do early in the season is work more on team dynamics as opposed to basic skills. …For the first time I think going into the first game, we’re ready to play a game.”
The end of each of the past three Raiders’ seasons — including the last two that ended in the first round of the playoffs in losses to Colorado Academy — have had Wagner wishing his team had two more weeks to peak.
The hope is that Regis Jesuit won’t spend half the season trying to find its stride so it can put itself in position for a high postseason seed, instead of drawing a first round opponent such as defending state champion Colorado Academy, Palmer Ridge or Cherry Creek.
“There’s a lot of seniors on our team and the team dynamic is better than I’ve ever seen it,” said Regis Jesuit senior midfielder/defender Megan Meckling, one of the team captains along with senior twins Caroline and Kat Law.
“I think we’ve finally hit our prime time when we’re not learning how to play the game as much,” she added. “Girls know what they are doing, so it’s opened up a lot more opportunities. I think we can go really far this year.”
Regis Jesuit was Aurora’s lone state playoff qualifier last season, as Grandview and Smoky Hill both fell short of the eight-team postseason.
Coach Chris Strater’s Wolves won three of their last fives games last season to finish at .500 (8-8), but missed the playoffs by one spot behind Regis Jesuit, which won the head-to-head contest between the teams by a single goal.
With a strong returning group of juniors and some key seniors, Grandview could return to the playoffs as it did in 2011.
Coach Jenny Perizzolo again has abundant youth on her Smoky Hill co-op team, but it is slightly more experienced and much more athletic than the team that finished without a victory in 2012.
Perizzolo is encouraging a more attacking style of play from her team this season and hopes that can make a difference in the win column.
“It’s a different group of kids; we have better athletes and they don’t mind getting pushed,” said Perizzolo, who also has players from Cherokee Trail and Eaglecrest.
Another positive for the Buffaloes this season is the presence of former Smoky Hill stars Amber Lister and Janelle Myers, who Perizzolo has brought on as assistant coaches.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2013 AURORA FIELD HOCKEY SEASON
Key dates: Aug. 29 — Regular season begins; Oct. 15 — Regular season completed; Oct. 19 — Quarterfinals completed; Oct. 23 — Semifinals (All-City Field); Oct. 28 — State championship game (All-City Field)
Aurora players to watch: Libby Boles, Smoky Hill, jr.; McKenna Homner, F, Grandview, jr.; Caroline Law, M, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Kat Law, F/M, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Katie Lechner, M, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Maggie Martin, F, Grandview, sr.; Megan Meckling, M/D, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Emily Neff, Grandview, jr.; Avery Phillips, Smoky Hill, soph.; Lorraine Tuti, F, Grandview, jr.; Kayla Wayne, GK, Grandview, sr.