Quick-striking Chatfield reaches 5A girls lacrosse semis for first time

(Brian Miller)

Chatfield moved to the semifinals for the first time on Wednesday. (Brian Miller)

LAKEWOOD -- Having already snapped one unlucky streak last weekend, Chatfield’s girls lacrosse team took an even bigger step forward Wednesday evening.

The Chargers used a quick-fire approach to keep Denver East on its heels in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A state tournament. Junior Kendra Lanuza added to her state-leading tally with five goals and Rachael Walker added three goals and five assists as Chatfield moved into the state semis for the first time in school history with a 15-10 victory over the Angels at Trailblazer Stadium.

“It’s just an incredible feeling,” said Lanuza, who now has 98 goals this season. “We really have come together as a team this year and we’re just doing the impossible.”

Chatfield also got three goals from Summer Stafford, and two each from Jen Lanuza and Shelby Piper.

The Chargers (17-0) draw Air Academy at the University of Denver on Saturday. Centaurus and Cherry Creek meet in the other semifinal, with the state title game slated for May 21, also at DU.

Denver East (14-3) was led by senior Julia Dudley’s five goals and Sarah Nick added three more.

“We had eight seniors who did a great job and we’ve built a program that now has 60 girls and eight coaches,“ said Angels coach Chris Romer, who took over the program earlier this year along with co-coach Mallory Cleveland. “Mallory and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve pulled together in basically three months.”

Chatfield had seen its season come to an end in the second round of the playoffs in each of the three previous seasons. That skid ended with a hard-fought 14-12 victory over Rampart on May 9, setting up the showdown with Denver East.

“We hadn’t played in two weeks. We came out a little bit rusty, a little bit slow,” Chargers coach Adam Everett said of the playoff opener. “I think getting that game in and then coming in here against East, a very good opponent, we were able to just play our game.”

The momentum shifted back and forth in the first half. Chatfield scored four consecutive goals early to take a 4-1 lead, but the Angels had an answer every time. Nick’s third goal of the half cut the lead to 8-6 at halftime.

In the second half though, Chatfield’s offensive rhythm took over, with quick passes leading to even quicker shots. Three of the team’s first four goals came on one-timers, and the Angels never seemed able to catch up to the team’s speedy attack.

“It’s that chemistry, knowing where people are going to be so they can just dump that ball off – that one-timer into the back of the net,” Everett said. “We’ve got the skill to do it. They stepped up tonight and they showed that they deserve to be in the Final Four.”

Walker, who had three assists in the first half, added two goals and two more assists in the second half. The Oregon-bound senior leads the state with 70 assists. Lanuza, who has verbally committed to DU, scored three goals in the second half.

“She’s an incredible player. She and Rachael Walker and Shelby Piper have all been just putting it into the back of the net for us all season,” Everett said. “We’ve been really fortunate to have those three. They all have the chemistry that has carried them through it.”

Denver East managed only four goals in the second half thanks to the combination of double- and triple-teams and five big saves from Chatfield goalie Emily McMinimee.

“We definitely really learned to step in front of the girls, especially the fast ones like Julia and Shelby Parks,” Lanuza said. “Just stop them and crash as a team.”

East had a few chances but couldn’t quite catch back up.

“Their goalie played outstanding and Chatfield is a good team,” Romer said. “They scored when they needed to score and we missed a few shots.”

Everett said with four great teams in the semifinals, Chatfield will need to be confident but not cocky. The Chargers have come this far, and they aren’t ready to see their run come to an end.

“We’re extremely fired up, especially with all the seniors on our team,” Lanuza said. “It’s their last shot. I think we definitely want it bad.”