GREENWOOD VILLAGE | No matter how many times the Regis Jesuit field hockey team makes it to the state championship game — a streak that is now at five seasons — it never loses its specialness.
Coach Spencer Wagner’s Raiders kept alive a streak of finals appearances when they topped Kent Denver 1-0 Tuesday night at Stutler Bowl in a game that was scoreless until a goal by senior Emily Bradac early in the fourth quarter.
Regis Jesuit earned the chance to win a third consecutive state championship and fourth all-time when till turn right around for a 6 p.m. title game Wednesday on the same turf against top-seeded Colorado Academy. The Mustangs — who twice defeated the Raiders during the regular season — made it to the final with a nail-biting 3-2 win over fifth-seeded Arapahoe in the other semifinal.
“This group had some big shoes to fill with last season’s team going undefeated and graduating nine seniors, so now they had to step into those shoes,” Wagner said. “Plus there’s the added pressure that everybody just expects us to do it now. …Every year, we just try to become better every week and maybe if we do everything correctly along the way, you can get to the finals.”
Regis Jesuit and Kent Denver played to a scoreless overtime tie during the regular season and the rematch in the semifinals had the same kind of look to it for 50 minutes of play.
That changed when the Raiders earned a penalty corner chance and executed.
Junior Kate Thompson sent the ball out high to senior Libby Roe, whose strike in front of the goal went to Bradac, who settled it and swiped it backhand between two defenders, got it off the ground and rocketed it into the back of the goal.
“It (the corner) was a little different, but our coaches always each us to be more adaptable and to make the moves based on what the other team is giving us,” said Bradac, who netted her seventh goal of the season and has scored in each of Regis Jesuit’s playoff wins.
“I pushed it out, saw an opening on the right side of the goal and I was like ‘this is it”. …It definitely will be a goal I will always remember.”
Regis Jesuit — which has a senior goalie in MaryKate Berg, who will play in her fourth state championship game in as many seasons — kept the ball in Kent Denver’s end of the field for nearly the entire rest of the game to secure the victory.
“This team did everything it was supposed to do tonight,” Wagner said. “Shout out to them to doing the hard work and putting us in a position to get the final. Now we have our shot.”
To win a state title, the Raiders will have to get past a Colorado Academy that defeated them 2-1 in the first meeting and 2-0 in the regular season finale.
While some players would have liked to see Arapahoe — which caused a stir in the second round with an upset win over No. 4 Cherry Creek — the majority are glad that it will be Colorado Academy on the other side of the championship tilt.
“I was hoping they would win,” senior Charlotte Ford said of the Mustangs. “Beating them in the finals is what’s going to make the season satisfying.”
Wagner isn’t a fan of the Colorado High School Activities Association’s plan to contest the semifinals and championship game on back-to-back nights because it doesn’t give the teams a chance to rest or heal up some nagging injuries, but strategy won’t be hard.
Both teams know each other well from their two previous meetings and it is likely that the winner of the state championship is the team that executes corner opportunities the best.
“I told them all the way back in the spring that we were going to play CA three times this season,” Wagner said. “We’ve planning for this since then.”
Added Bradac: “We’re excited to get our revenge on that team. It should be a fun and competitive game.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2022 STATE FIELD HOCKEY SEMIFINAL
(2) REGIS JESUIT 1, (3) KENT DENVER 0
Score by quarters:
Kent Denver 0 0 0 0 — 0
Regis Jesuit 0 0 0 1 — 1
Regis Jesuit — Emily Bradac (Libby Roe)