DENVER | The memories of winning last season’s state championship didn’t even have time to fade for the Regis Jesuit field hockey team before it grabbed another one.
The Raiders captured a state title just over six months ago when last season got shifted to the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic and became back-to-back champions with a dramatic 1-0 victory Nov. 1 at All-City Stadium.
As a cherry on top of the rare repeat, coach Spencer Wagner’s Regis Jesuit team finished the season unbeaten at 17-0-1.
“It’s crazy, this feels so unreal because it literally was only a few months ago that we were here in the same place, so it’s amazing that we could do this twice in one year,” said senior Katie Loftus, who scored the lone goal of the game.
“I’m so happy right now.”
This championship game played out much differently than the one Regis Jesuit won back in April at Stutler Bowl, when the Raiders topped Cherry Creek 2-1 in overtime on a sudden victory goal by now-graduated Cate Lord.
This season’s final included just one goal and it came near the end of the first quarter on a beautiful play between the high-scoring combination of Loftus and fellow senior Ellie Johnson, who led the team in goals and assists, respectively, during the season.
On a quick restart, Johnson — who also got the assist on Lord’s winning goal in the last state title game — saw Loftus breaking into the Colorado Academy end and fed her with a ground-hugging pass that found its way through a thicket of defenders to the stick of Loftus, who guided it into the back of the goal.
“Ellie’s passing was just pinpoint and Katie one-on-one in the center of the D, I’ll take that 100 percent of the time,” Wagner said. “That was a beautiful goal. It’s the way I like to score. Obviously it’s easier to score on a corner because you have the numbers advantage, but I love an open field goal.”
Added Loftus: “It was beautiful, Ellie set me up so perfectly to just one time it into the goal. It was such a great ball.”
It turned out that goal would have to hold for the remaining three periods and it did, though not without a considerable amount of stress on the Regis Jesuit defense.
Colorado Academy — the state’s second most-prolific offense behind Regis Jesuit — amped up the pressure in the second half and had a variety of penalty corners in which to do so.
But junior goalie MaryKate Berg, who was also in the goal during the championship victory in the spring, and the Raiders’ defense was up to the task.
“We’ve trained so much that I have confidence in my team team members; I love my defense, they are literally my inspiration,” Berg said. “We give each other mutual energy.”
The Mustangs put a ball past Berg — who allowed just five goals in 18 games — with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, but the goal was waved off.
Given Colorado Academy’s offensive prowess, Wagner had prepared his Regis Jesuit team for going to overtime or double overtime, but he was certainly glad it didn’t get there.
With a veteran team and so many players returning from the championship in the spring, Wagner had the opportunity to sit back and watch his team rise to the occasion.
“It’s been fun for me to watch and it’s been really enjoyable,” Wagner said. “When you get to this level, the team has to be the one making the calls, not the coach, otherwise they aren’t thinking the game through and won’t be able to adapt. I think we did that tonight, as we adapted to everything Colorado Academy did. I didn’t have to give them a play, I just told them they know how to play it, so just trust their gut and instincts. For me as a coach, it was rewarding to watch them do that.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2021 FIELD HOCKEY STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Nov. 1 at All-City Stadium
(1) Regis Jesuit 1, (2) Colorado Academy 0
Score by quarters:
Colo. Academy 0 0 0 0 — 0
Regis Jesuit 1 0 0 0 — 1
Regis Jesuit — Katie Loftus (Ellie Johnson), 33.1