DENVER | In its complete evolution into an elite field hockey program, one thing had eluded Regis Jesuit: a win over Colorado Academy.
The Raiders made a rapid climb into one of the state’s top teams in less than a decade of existence — which reached the top with a state championship last season — but carried an 0-7-1 all-time mark against the Mustangs into Tuesday night’s meeting in the state championship game at All-City Stadium.
Taking that next step will have to wait until next season, as Regis Jesuit fell behind by two goals and launched a late rally that fell short in a 2-1 defeat. Coach Spencer Wagner’s Raiders finished the season 14-2-2, with both losses coming to Colorado Academy, which completed a perfect 18-0 season.
“This was supposed to be the night, but I guess it will have to be another day,” Wagner said.
The Mustangs denied the Raiders their second all-time title and collected their sixth, second all-time in state history behind Kent Denver — which they beat in the semifinals — which has won 10 championships.
The same two players who scored in the regular season meeting between the teams — Julia Hall and Katharine Merrifield — also tallied for Colorado Academy in the rematch.
Hall’s score came on a well-executed corner play on a pass from Camille Doherty (who also had an assist in the regular season meeting) with just 2 minutes, 50 seconds, left in the opening half, while Merrifield scored less than five minutes into the second half on a chop from a bad angle that bounded unexpectedly past Regis Jesuit goalie Shay Zilvitis.
“Because of the reschedule, our center defender couldn’t be here, so we adjusted, but it took a little while,” Wagner said. “We gave up too many early corners and we did a good job of stopping most of them, but they got one good goal and one fluky goal and that was all they needed.”
The deficit didn’t discourage the Raiders, who turned up the pressure on the other end and generated some great scoring chances off short corner opportunities. Seniors Lauren Pendergast and Lauren Doyle each hit line drives at Mustangs goalie Rebecca Kerr, but she deflected both with her shinpads.
Junior Cate Lord helped turn the tables for Regis Jesuit when she stole a ball in close and fed it in front to senior Caitrin Lombardo, who upped her team-leading goal total to 13.
“It felt so good, it was the motivation we needed to keep playing and stay strong the rest of the game,” Lombardo said. “I think the last couple of minutes we played the best because we were so ready to get another goal and wanted it so bad.”
Indeed the Raiders pressed and pressed for the equalizer against a Mustangs team that just tried to hang on.
But the tying goal never came and Colorado Academy milked the final minutes off the clock with some slow-moving corner plays.
“All you can do is give it your all and we had a lot of opportunities at the end,” Pendergast said.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or sport[email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
(1) COLORADO ACADEMY 2, (2) REGIS JESUIT 1
Score by halves:
Regis Jesuit 0 1 — 1
Colo. Academy 1 1 — 2
Colorado Academy — Julia Hall (Camille Doherty), 2:50
Colorado Academy — Katharine Merrifield, 25:33
Regis Jesuit — Caitrin Lombardo (Cate Lord), 8:06