AURORA | The Regis Jesuit field hockey team recorded double-digit wins last year as it had its best season since the program started five years ago.

Spencer Wagner’s Raiders finished 10-6 last season, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Palmer Ridge.

Wagner hopes the Raiders can claw past the first round of playoffs in the 2014 season, but it won’t be easy with the number of young players on the team and many of last season’s stalwarts graduated.

“We did lose 10 seniors, however we had a team of 19 by the end of last season, so I think those younger players are now ready to step up,” Wagner said. “I think the experience of playing together last year will help keep our team at the level we ended last year and hopefully allow us to exceed it. I really feel like we’re picking up exactly where we left off at the end of last season thanks to a lot of dedicated work by the players in the offseason.”

The strong influx of young players and incoming freshmen will help build the Regis Jesuit field hockey program and Wagner thinks it will lead to more strong years to come.

Another positive for the Raiders is the addition of assistant coach Raina Cazier. Cazier is a Regis Jesuit alumna and plans to strengthen the team’s defense in front of junior goalie Claire Stemper, a team captain who was voted first team all-state last year.

Wagner expects the strengths of the Raiders all-state goalie and quick transition offense to catch other teams off guard and lead to success.

“Across the board, this is the most knowledgeable team we’ve fielded, even though it’s one of the youngest,” Wagner said. “Every player is confident and willing to step up and be a leader.”

The Raiders started the 2014 season 1-1, playing two top opponents in St. Mary’s Academy and Kent Denver.

Regis Jesuit was the sole Aurora team to make the playoffs in 2013, but Grandview and Smoky Hill are looking to change that statistic in the upcoming season.

Chris Strater’s Grandview team finished 2-10-13 in 2013 and have already won more games this year than they did last year with a 3-0 start.

The Wolves — who blanked Mountain Vista, St. Mary’s Academy and Fossil Ridge — could ride the momentum into the eight-team postseason for the first time in a long time.

Smoky Hill brought in a new head coach, Natalie Foerster, to replace Jenny Perizzolo after a disappointing 1-11-3 2013 season.

Foerster is a former four-year Smoky Hill field hockey player and a first time head coach. Foerster named her older sister, Kaitlynne Wetmore, as an assistant varsity coach. Wetmore also played field hockey in high school and has two years of experience under her belt as a head coach with the school’s lacrosse team.

Foerster’s former fellow Buffalo teammate, Kylie Clay, was appointed the junior varsity coach due to her knowledge about the game and great stick skills.

“Together the three of us are really trying to start to rebuild the program, Foerster said. “I think together the three of us will bring the heart, determination and dedication back to Smoky Hill.”

Foerster and Clay are hoping to teach the girls the same techniques former Buffaloes coach Brad Bryant taught them. Bryant guided the Buffaloes to four straight semifinals appearances and taught the team they could do anything they put their mind to.

“We want them to play with heart. …that is the biggest thing,” Foerster added. “We can teach them all the stick skills in the world, but if they do not learn to play with heart and determination they won’t get far. This year we have gone back to the basics and I think it has really started to pay off already.  We are able to see tremendous progress and parents have been commenting on how well they are doing and how much they are improving.”

The Smoky Hill coaching staff is trying to get the energy and confidence level up in a team that graduated very few seniors. They want the girls to be excited to play even after starting off the 2014 season 0-3.

Seniors Jessica Saffold, who led the Buffaloes with six goals last season, earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season.

— Sports Editor Courtney Oakes contributed to this report


Key dates: Aug. 21 — Regular season begins; Oct. 16 — Regular season completed; Oct. 20 — Quarterfinals completed; Oct. 22 — Semifinals (All-City Field); Oct. 25 — State championship game (All-City Field)

Aurora coaches: Grandview — Chris Strater; Regis Jesuit — Spencer Wagner; Smoky Hill — Natalie Foerster

Aurora players to watch: Brianna Carroll, Smoky Hill, sr.; McKenna Homner, Grandview, sr.; Katie Lechner, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Emily Neff, Grandview, sr.; Kodi Paules, Smoky Hill, soph; Kathleen Roe, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Jessica Saffold, Smoky Hill, sr.; Claire Stemper, Regis Jesuit, jr.

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...