LAFAYETTE -- The Centaurus girls lacrosse team has been a dominant squad throughout the season.
The Warriors were 11-0 in Colorado entering Wednesday, had outscored in-state opponents 183-61 and are No. 1 in this week’s CHSAANow.com ranking. So, in a sense, Centaurus (12-1 overall) was accustomed to overpowering its opponents this year.
Wednesday's 13-12 win over No. 4 Arapahoe was different.
In a Centaurus home game at Spangenburg Field, Arapahoe scored eight consecutive goals to close the first half with a 9-4 lead on the top-ranked team. Arapahoe stymied a typically high-powered Centaurus attack as it took momentum time and again by winning draws and applying pressure on goal.
Arapahoe was balanced offensively as five different players scored in the half, led by Kienan Linhardt’s two goals.
“First half, basically we weren’t clicking,” Centaurus junior Sarah Myres said. “We weren’t putting our shots in, we weren’t faking or shooting at the goalie. Last year, we really thrived as a comeback team, we would be down five or four goals and win. We went and talked about that in the huddle and we came back out with a different mentality and we pushed the fastbreak.”
Andrea Kim, a talented sophomore who started as a freshman on Centaurus’ state-runner up team, said the Warriors never lost composure.
“If anything, we were really pumped up,” Kim said about trying to overcome the deficit. “We haven’t really had this close of a game before, so it was really nice to get that competition in preparation for the postseason. I thought it was amazing how our team was able to pull it together.”
Centaurus’ mental fortitude and offensive talent shined in the second half as Kim, Myres and Katherine Burns slashed through the defense for open looks. The Warriors, a team with great quickness and speed, got in the open field and caused problems for Arapahoe.
Myres struck first to make the game 9-5 with twenty minutes remaining. Just over a minute later, Burns scored. Twenty seconds later, Myres scored. Thirty seconds later, Burns scored, and it was a new game at 9-8 with 17:55 to play.
“I just thought that I needed to be more aggressive in the game and drive in and take those shots,” Myres said of the offensive outburst.
Kim and Burns followed her lead, but Arapahoe answered the call with an Alexis Linhardt goal at the 17:43 mark to reclaim a two-goal advantage.
In the end, Arapahoe was unable to cease Centaurus’ momentum as Kim scored three of her team's final four goals to take a 13-11 lead with three minutes to play.
Arapahoe’s Kate Englert, the team’s leading scorer this season, had a desperation goal with 1:01 left to cut the deficit to one, but Centaurus won the final draw, stalled, and secured its eighth consecutive win.
Centaurus coach Genny Horning credited the win to the players’ cool demeanor under pressure during their first large deficit of the season.
“I think that’s what’s so great about this team,” Horning said. “They’re so mentally tough, they’re super composed, and they’re confident. That just fires them up to play harder and play better. Everybody really wants to play the best they possibly can.”
Kim admitted it’s a growing process learning to play confidently.
“I think taking the draw kind of got in my head when I kept losing it,” Kim said. “As soon as I got on that first run, I thought, 'OK let’s do it again, do it again, do it again.' I think for me, it was just working on my mental game a lot.”
Centaurus, with a game remaining against 11-3 ThunderRidge, likely has the inside track to the No. 1 overall seed when the playoff bracket is unveiled Monday. The Warriors have defeated current top-10 ranked teams Air Academy, Colorado Academy, Denver East, Kent Denver, Cherry Creek -- and now Arapahoe.
Horning is confident in her team, but knows the path to a possible state championship, which would be Centaurus’ first in girls lacrosse, will be anything but easy.
“I would say there’s a really high-level top eight or nine teams this season, so it’s up for grabs,” Horning said. “Everybody’s showing up, everybody’s working hard, everybody’s getting better. For us, we talk a lot about making sure we’re better every day, every game, every practice. We absolutely have to be better to be able to make a deep run in the playoffs, so we certainly will not rest and take anything for granted."