DENVER — Hearts were left on the field in a thrilling field hockey semifinal where the undefeated Colorado Academy topped an unyielding Denver East.
Colorado Academy, the top seed, scored with 30 seconds remaining in overtime to top No. 4 East 1-0 and return to the state championship game. The Mustangs are a two-time defending champion in the sport.
"All the credit to East," said first-year CA coach Veronica Scott. "What a tough performance they gave."
The first half was an equal battle of sprinting, defense, and many close penalty corners as both teams headed into the half scoreless. But it was Colorado Academy which took to the field with all the steam in the second half, holding possession for the majority of play.
"We didn't wake up until later in the game," Scott said.
Although they hammered shot after shot, East continued to hold off the No. 1 seed, sending the game into overtime.
It seemed the game would go on yet again as time dwindled in the 10-minute extra play period, but with just under 30 seconds, Colorado Academy colored the scoreboard with a breakaway. Senior forward Henley Hall's placed the ball in teammate Julia Murphy's stick, who finished the play.
"We just kept chipping away," Scott said. "I told the girls that if they kept pressuring, the goal would come. That last play was the making of sheer determination."
The last time the two met was in the early season in late August, where Colorado Academy won 4-1. Nearly two months later, it was not such an easy feat. Denver East gave the perpetually dominant opponent their hardest challenge of the season — if not the past three.
With the win, Colorado Academy extended its unbeaten streak to an impressive 51 games (49-0-2) dating to the 2012 season, including 40-straight wins. And moved to another state final.
(3) Palmer Ridge 1, (2) Kent Denver 0
In the second semifinal game of the night, under the lights and cool temperatures, Palmer Ridge edged Kent Denver 1-0.
Freshman Liz Philips scored less than five minutes in to give Palmer an early lead. Shortly after, Kent answered with a goal — which was overturned moments later.
The always energetic Kent crowd kept spirits high well into the second half, when the Sun Devils had all the momentum. But a strong Palmer Ridge defense maintained the lead.
In the evening's fashion, nobody was clearing the bleachers early. With just under 21 seconds left, Kent played a beautiful progression from a penalty corner, putting the ball in the net and sending the team into a cheer. Yet, the celebration was preemptive, as their second hopeful goal of the evening would be called a no-goal with a strike above 18 inches.
With one more penalty corner and the clock at zero, Palmer Ridge kept the ball out and captured the win.
"Kent has a very strong forward line," said Palmer Ridge's senior goalie Cheradyn Petit. "I credit my short corner defense. They always have my back."
They will meet Colorado Academy at All-City Stadium at 5 p.m. on Saturday, a matchup against they are all too familiar with.
Last year in the semifinals, Palmer lost to Colorado Academy 7-2. The year before that, Colorado Academy took the championship 1-0.
"They are not unbeatable," said Palmer Ridge coach Paul Lewis. "We have to finish our corners, we have to get our goals. We got a good look at East's run against them. We just have to find a way to make it happen."