DENVER — Three times in a row, Colorado Academy and Cherry Creek have met in the girls lacrosse championship. Three times in a row, Colorado Academy has come away with the gold hardware.
"We faced a lot of adversity. I think this one is especially meaningful for us and for the seniors because we rose above that," Colorado Academy's Sloane Murphy said. "Despite people saying we had it easy in playoffs, or because we lost so many seniors, we wouldn't be able to get where we are, it shows them that we're here and we're staying."
The now three-time defending champion Mustangs went on a 4-0 run in the first half to distance themselves from Cherry Creek and add to their 16-0 record in the state of Colorado.
Colorado Academy (17-2 overall) did not lose in Colorado all year.
"There was this whole stigma around a streak, so for a lot of us, we've tried to push that notion outside of our head," Murphy said. "Those two losses still meant something to us. We focused on the next game, how we could improve, how can we take the last game and apply it to the next one?"
Out of a timeout, Murphy ended the back-and-forth scoring to put Colorado Academy up 4-2.
Colorado Academy coach Steph Sanders said she told her team, "You guys have this much time, you've got to get the job done. How badly do you want this?"
Then, Murphy did it again.
Murphy cut into the middle of the Cherry Creek defense and scored as she ran across goal.
Merrill Rollhaus added another to push the lead to 6-2 and the Mustangs were rolling.
"Coming out of that timeout, we were realizing we were a little frazzled and we needed to settle in," Murphy said. "It's already been 15 minutes, we need to just get our nerves down. At that point, all of us realized let's get some numbers on the board."
Cherry Creek coach Bailey Zerr called a timeout to let her Bruins take a breath, and it paid off.
Pearl Schwartz and Emma Godfrey ended the 4-0 Colorado Academy run with back-to-back goals.
Colorado Academy had a goal called off for charging with 1:36 in the first half and the teams went into halftime with Cherry Creek holding the momentum.
"Our goal was to come out and play the best we can and end up here. And we ended up playing a great game," Sanders said. "We knew we had to show up every single game because we have a target on our back. As long as we can stay with our gameplan, we're fine."
But, out of the half, Colorado Academy controlled the ball for almost four minutes to deflate that momentum. Then, Claire Wright got the second-half scoring started and it was 7-4 Mustangs.
"We came in telling them this is a game just like any other," Sanders said. "Our defense knew they had to step up. We really wanted to possess the ball, because we know that when Creek has the ball, they're really dangerous."
Colorado Academy held Cherry Creek scoreless for 23 minutes stretching from 3:48 in the first half to 1:48 in the second half.
"That was extremely vital," Murphy said. "In lacrosse, we've learned people can come back in a matter of seconds. I think that was really crucial in the end. Creek's offense was something we really had to be aware of coming in. They have great stick skills, all of them are a threat. That's a great feat for us that we were able to hold them off for so long."
Cherry Creek had the chance to take the lead with the game tied 3-3 as Pearl Schwartz weaved her way on net, but the shot was saved by Bridget Sutter.
Colorado Academy got on the board first with a goal by Sydney Prokupek.
Isabel Anema struck back for Cherry Creek, then Emma Godfrey's shot went off the crossbar.
Colorado Academy's Claire Wright took advantage of the opportunity off the missed shot to put Colorado Academy up 2-1.
And again Cherry Creek responded. Pearl Schwartz found the back of the net to tie the game.
But, the game wouldn't stay tied long as Lauren Russell got in on the scoring to give the Mustangs a 3-2 lead.
Cherry Creek has made every Colorado girls lacrosse championship in the history of the sport. The Bruins have 10 titles.
Colorado Academy moves into second all-time with four championship wins.