GREENWOOD VILLAGE | The Smoky Hill field hockey team got halfway out of its early hole Monday night against Mountain Vista, but a late rally fell short in a 2-1 state play-in game loss at Stutler Bowl.

Coach Lisa Griffiths’ 10th-seeded Buffaloes — a mix of players from multiple Aurora-area Cherry Creek School District schools — got a goal in the fourth quarter from junior Henley Whitehead and couldn’t convert a final penalty corner opportunity to fall to the 11th-seeded Golden Eagles.

Smoky Hill finished the season 6-9-1, which was a significant move up from a 3-12-1 campaign in 2022. The Buffaloes had their season end in the play-in game for the second straight season, but were the home team this time after playing on the road at St. Mary’s Academy in the same round a year ago.

Mountain Vista (4-11-1) — which avenged a 3-2 loss to Smoky Hill Sept. 21 — moves into a Wednesday first round state playoff matchup against seventh-seeded Arapahoe. No. 9 Palmer Ridge defeated No. 12 Dakota Ridge 2-1 in overtime in the other play-in game.

The Buffaloes and Golden Eagles were scoreless for the first 15 minutes, but Mountain Vista was awarded an untimed penalty corner opportunity with no time remaining in the first quarter. Smoky Hill goalie Meghan Bird made a save on an initial shot, but the Buffaloes were unable to establish possession and the Golden Eagles put the ball in the goal in the aftermath.

Mountain Vista scored again near the midway point of the second quarter — again at the end of a play that started with a corner chance — for a 2-0 lead at halftime.

Smoky Hill spent more time in the Golden Eagles’ end in the second half and with 8:35 remaining looked like it had a goal, but senior Molly Keating’s score was waved off. Junior Elyse Bailey created a point blank chance just over a minute later that was turned aside.

Whitehead got Smoky Hill on the scoreboard with just over four minutes left and the Buffaloes pushed for the tying score. They also got a penalty corner that would be the final play of the game and were unable to convert.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

State playoff (play-in game)

(11) Mountain Vista 2, (10) Smoky Hill 1

Score by quarters:

Mtn. Vista 1 1 0 0 — 2

Smoky Hill 0 0 0 1 — 1

Smoky Hill goal: Henley Whitehead

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...

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