The May 21 Class 5A state girls lacrosse championship game came down to the wire but Air Academy held off a determined Cherry Creek rally to win the title, 11-10.
“It was a championship game so you know the other team will be coming at you hard,” Bruins coach Bree Tierney said after the game. “We battled hard and came close but weren't able to get those final goals we would have needed to win the game.”
Cherry Creek finished with a 12-7 record on the year, while Air Academy raised its overall record to 17-2 with the win at the Peter Barnum Stadium on the University of Denver Campus. Between them, the two teams have won the last nine state championships. The Bruins have won six and the Kadets three.
Despite their success, the Bruins, who won it all in 2013, weren't expected by most to make it to the finals. And while the Kadets won two of their three tournament games by more than 10 goals to advance to the finals Cherry Creek won the quarterfinal and the semifinal games each by one goal.
Following an afternoon of heavy rain and hailstorms, the sky was clearing as the teams took to the field for the title tilt. Air Academy scored less than a minute into the game and the Bruins tied the score three minutes later.
Cherry Creek scored the next two goals and, about midway through the first half, the Kadets has scored three goals in a row to take a 4-3 advantage. Cherry Creek re-seized the lead at 5-4 with 3:31 left in the half but after a late Kadet goal, things were all tied up at the break.
After Creek took a 7-5 lead early in the second half, Air Academy did everything but put the game away, jumping ahead 11-7 with a series of quick tallies. Olivia List started a determined Cherry Creek comeback effort as she intercepted a Kadet pass and won the one-on-one matchup with the Air Academy goalie to make it 11-8.
The Bruins then pressed the attack and List scored again with 4:56 left in the game, and Caroline Perry scored 30 seconds later to make pull Cherry Creek within a goal.
The Bruins got off seven more shots in the final two minutes, but three sailed wide of the cage, defenders deflected two shots, one hit the goalie and one hit the cage. Air Academy regained possession of the ball and ran out the clock to preserve the win.
“The game was a little different than I expected,” Tierney said. “I expected us to shoot better and I thought we could shut down their attack a little better. That said I am proud of the way our girls refused to quit when Air Academy was up by four. They put on a spurt at the end to make the game close and they should be proud of that effort.”
The coach noted the next few weeks will be time for the team to celebrate the good things about the season for the 11 seniors who graduated earlier in the day.
She said those seniors will be hard to replace but she feels she has a number of good players who will be ready to step up and battle for starting spots on the varsity team next spring.
Senior Sarah Cromer, who handles the draws for the team, finished the game with two assists. She said it was an emotional time for her and all the seniors on the team.
“We bonded as a team, overcame a lot of obstacles and made it to the state finals,” she said. “No one thought we would get very far in the finals.”
“There is a lot of emotion tonight because high school is over for those of us who are seniors. I take away the friendships I have made and the memories I have made from my time at Cherry Creek and my time on the girls lacrosse team.”