Field Hockey: Regis Jesuit seeks elusive playoff win, while other Aurora programs aim for playoffs

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Regis Jesuit senior goalie Claire Stemper poses on Aug. 25, 2015, at Regis Jesuit High School. Stemper, who was verbally committed to the University of Michigan, is a two-time all-state selection in the goal who hopes to lead the Raiders to their first playoff win after five straight postseasons exits in the opening round. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)
Regis Jesuit senior goalie Claire Stemper poses on Aug. 25, 2015, at Regis Jesuit High School. Stemper, who was verbally committed to the University of Michigan, is a two-time all-state selection in the goal who hopes to lead the Raiders to their first playoff win after five straight postseasons exits in the opening round. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

The quest for a postseason victory continues for the Regis Jesuit field hockey team.

Coach Spencer Wagner’s Raiders own a streak of five straight seasons in the state playoffs, but have yet to advance past the opening round.

Regis Jesuit finished 7-8-1 last season and was Aurora’s only postseason representative, falling 2-0 in the first round to Denver East, a team the Raiders drew 0-0 with just four days earlier.

The foundation of a playoff winner often starts in the goal, which the Raiders have in spades as two-time all-state selection Claire Stemper returns. Stemper gave her verbal commitment to the University of Michigan in the offseason.

Wagner has complete trust in the choices of his goalie, who is not shy about coming out of the net to play the ball or force offensive players to make quick decisions with that to do. The numbers speak for themselves, as Stemper was credited with 8.8 saves per game last season and recorded five shutouts, while allowing just one goal on four occasions.

The Raiders didn’t lose many regulars to graduation, but leading scorer, captain and all-state performer Katie Lechner did depart and is now at Division II Mercyhurst.

With continually improving senior Kathleen Roe — a Division I-bound lacrosse star — and junior Lindsey Reich (a second team all-conference selection) both returning after four-goals seasons in 2014, Regis Jesuit should be equipped offensively.

With only 13 teams competing in field hockey in Colorado, Wagner started the Aurora Field Hockey Club this summer, which brought together the coaches of Regis Jesuit and Aurora’s other two programs, Grandview and Smoky Hill plus Cherry Creek, with the intent to give young players the basic skills they need before they reach high school and develop a pool of players which could lead to the addition of teams at other schools in the future.

While Regis Jesuit seeks playoff success, Grandview and Smoky Hill eye improvements on sub-.500 seasons in 2014.

Grandview’s program transitions to a new coach this season in Desiree Crocker, but it will be about as seamless as possible coming off a 4-8-3 2014 campaign.

Desiree Crocker, who spent the last four seasons as the Wolves’ junior varsity coach under old coach Chris Strater, takes over with a firm grasp on the abilities of her players. Grandview’s seniors spent two seasons with her on jv, so she has a built-in comfort level with them.

“This group is very comfortable and they work well as a unit, which I think will make us strong,” said Crocker, who also has a core of players who also play together on the school’s lacrosse team in the spring.

Particularly encouraging was a performance in July at the Rocky Mountain State Games in Colorado Springs, where Grandview earned a bronze medal, something the program hadn’t done for a long time at the annual tournament that also included Regis Jesuit and prep teams from Denver and Colorado Springs.

Crocker’s introduced a new formation for the Wolves this season and plans to be more aggressive offensively, particularly with players such as outside defenders Emily Abele, a senior, and junior Lourdes Trujillo moving up from the back to attack.

Senior Estephania Beltran del Rio is a playmaker in the middle of the field, while senior forwards Morgan Matthews and Cammi Huffman constantly put pressure on opposing defenses.

Sophomore Megan Matthews has the athleticism Crocker likes to see in a goalie.

The Wolves’ goals are simple.

“I’d like to go over the .500 mark and hopefully make the playoffs,” Crocker said.

Smoky Hill — a co-op team includes players from Cherokee Trail and Eaglecrest, which don’t have field hockey programs — finished 1-13-1 last season, but coach Natalie Foerster is anticipating a much better performance this season.

The Buffs received an influx of players from the school’s successful soccer program that she

“I am really looking forward to all of the soccer girls that have decided to come out this year,” Foerster said. “They are bringing the chemistry that they have from the soccer field and I think it could really benefit us with field hockey this year and help us rebuild the program.”

Senior Ashley Stevenson and juniors Kodi Paules and Mikayla Hernandez strengthen the midfield, while junior forward Maggie Pearson is expected to be a big part of the attack, while senior Vanessa Ruby is a key figure in the back at high defense.

Smoky Hill will again host a Pink Ribbon Game on Oct. 6 at Legacy Stadium against Grandview, where those who have fought or are currently fighting breast cancer will be honored.

Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

2015 AURORA FIELD HOCKEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Emily Abele, Grandview, sr.; Estephania Beltran del Rio, Grandview, sr.; Matison Davis, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Mikayla Hernandez, Smoky Hill, jr.; Kami Huffman, Grandview, sr.; Megan Matthews (Goalie), Grandview, soph.; Morgan Matthews, Grandview, sr.; Kodi Paules, Smoky Hill, jr.; Maggie Pearson, Smoky Hill, jr.; Lindsey Reich, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Kathleen Roe, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Vanessa Ruby, Smoky Hill, sr.; Claire Stemper (Goalie), Regis Jesuit, sr.; Ashley Stevenson, Smoky Hill, sr.; Lourdes Trujillo, Grandview, jr.