For only the second time in the history of sanctioned field hockey in Colorado, the state champion hails from Aurora, as Regis Jesuit continues to bask in the glow of winning its first title in the sport.
Coach Spencer Wagner’s Raiders finally reached the pinnacle of the sport with a 2-1 overtime win over Cherry Creek in a well-attended game at Denver’s All-City Stadium last fall.
Regis Jesuit became only the eighth program to win a state championship since sanctioning began in 1997 and now begins a quest to become the first repeat winner since Colorado Academy reeled off four straight titles from 2012 to 2015.
The loss of just four starters will help with that goal, as a returning core of seniors Lauren Pendergast, Zoey Dale and Shay Zilvitis, juniors Cate Lord and Grace Weigand and others should help keep continuity.
Regis Jesuit will have to find new ways to score, however, as the five seniors that graduated accounted for 33 of last season’s 51 goals and 16 of its 28 assists.
Pendergast finished tied for the team lead last season with 10 goals — including both goals in the state championship game (capped by the deciding penalty stroke) — and the senior captain also tied for team honors in assists with seven. Lord registered 10 points (four goals, two assists) while playing a defensive game.
The Raiders thrived on defense as they allowed only 10 goals in 17 games, just two more than co-state leaders Cherry Creek and Kent Denver.
Grandview, coming off a two-win season, has a new coach in Alex Smith, who takes over for Desiree Crocker. Smith has found a 50-50 mix of experience and returning players on her roster.
While Smith adapts the team to her way of doing things, she will rely on a group that includes seniors Cate Lyn Tierney and Nim Kaur, as well as a junior core of Paige Lacey, Elise Euler and Sophia Hall.
Grandview’s largest task is building an offense as players that accounted for eight of its nine goals last season graduated.
Smoky Hill comes into the new campaign looking for its first win since late in the 2016 season.
Coach Natalie Foerster has to move on without last season’s leading scorer, Kate Smetana (who is not playing as she focuses on soccer), so the Buffs will count on the trio of juniors Emma Ammons, Hannah Kim and Haley McIlroy to pick up some of the slack.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports