Seniors play big role in field hockey's growth

Colorado Academy is the No. 1 seed in this year's state playoffs. (Courtesy photo)

Colorado Academy is the No. 1 seed in this year's state playoffs. (Courtesy photo)

This group leads by example, and if they have it there way, the number of girls following in their footsteps will continue to grow.

Now in its 16th season, field hockey has proven a popular sport among young women across thirteen state high schools. Recently, the sport has grown in Colorado schools -- thanks to members of the class of 2013.

"Every summer there is a summer league where you can come back and play," said Colorado Academy captain Mandy Weeks. "Alumni, current high schoolers, young kids and adults all come and play during the summer."

In Colorado, there are three premier field hockey clubs that girls can get involved in: Denver Field Hockey Club, and Colorado Field Hockey Association and Club Lewy located in Colorado Springs. Weeks has gotten involved in Denver's club, along with a handful of other girls from local high schools.

At Smoky Hill, Jessica Schnitzer first got involved in the game in middle school when the varsity team came down to promote their team.

"They came down and passed out flyers and taught us how to play," said Schnitzer. "They kind of told us about the team."

Now part of the varsity team, Schnitzer and her teammates have gotten involved in the community. Smoky Hill, along with a handful of other schools, have started programs that raise awareness about their teams at the seventh- and eighth-grade levels.

"I try to make sure the people at our school know about field hockey and what we're all about," Schnitzer said. "The team makes sure we get involved in school activities like participating in the homecoming parade and going down to the middle school and working with the younger kids."

Kent Denver's Chloe Dikeou. (Courtesy photo)

Kent Denver's Chloe Dikeou. (Courtesy photo)

Players and coaches have both contributed to field hockey's growth at Kent Denver.

"Field hockey wouldn't be possible without our coach, Kathy James," the Sun Devils' Chloe Dikeou said. "She has helped develop our program tremendously. We have the second largest sports program at our school behind boys lacrosse."

Some players have gotten so involved in the game that they hope to coach after graduating this summer. Bailey Taber of St. Mary's Academy and Hannah Coburn of Mountain Vista plan to return as coaches.

"I want to come back next year and help coach -- I love sports, encouraging my teammates and teaching the newbies," Taber said.  "At St. Mary's, it's very unique. We get to have a ton of fun while staying competitive. Our teammates become our family."

Coburn has seen the program grow over her time at Mountain Vista.

"I am going to play field hockey in college and it would be my dream to coach when I come back during the summer at the middle school, high school or club level," Coburn said. "I have been a part of Denver field hockey for four years but have been coaching and mentoring for two. I'm really proud of our school and the passion it has for the sport. I'm really excited to see where the program goes in the future."

Taber has also helped the sport grow internationally. During a two-week service trip to Uganda last summer, she brought field hockey to an orphanage.

"We brought plastic field hockey sticks and taught some of the kids down there how to play," Taber said.  "I ran camps and we did a bunch of projects for the community on a two-week service trip to an orphanage. I hope to go back next summer with the same organization and help work with them some more."

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

Kayla Wayne, of Grandview, has reached out to the athletic community through social media.

"I usually tell people to come out to our games over Facebook or Twitter, and talk to other friends who don't play," said Wayne. "A lot of my friends notice how close we are on and off the field and that brings them to games."

In 2013, Daelynn Demello of Palmer Ridge leads the league in points (55) and goals (20), and is tied for first in assists with 15. She and her team lost to Colorado Academy in last season's championship game.

"This year we're hoping to make it to (the state final) again, it will help the sport continue to grow at our school," Demello said.

This season's state championship bracket was released Tuesday morning Colorado Academy once again claimed the top seed and will play Cheyenne Mountain in the first round.

The semifinals of will take place on Oct. 23, and a state champion will emerge on Oct. 28 in the finals at All-City stadium in Denver.