DENVER – The stage is set, and it looks extremely familiar.
For the fourth straight year, Colorado Academy and Cherry Creek will square off for the girls lacrosse state championship. Each team punched their ticket to the title game with convincing victories in the semifinal round of the playoff tournament on Saturday at the University of Denver.
Top-seeded Cherry Creek led the way with an 11-6 win against No. 5 Chaparral in the first game of the afternoon.
The Bruins (18-0) were tested early by an eager Wolverines (15-3) team that snagged the first lead and threatened to test Cherry Creek’s streak of finals appearances. But after shaking off the initial nerves, the Bruins went on to score five of the six goals leading up to halftime to take a 6-3 lead into the break.
“We started nervous. This stadium is just unreal; it’s so different than any other environment we play in the regular season and we have a young team. It took a little bit of adjusting,” senior midfielder Isabel Anema said.
“We have this connection. Once one person started clicking, we all hopped on board and started to let loose.”
Once on the same page, Cherry Creek started to show exactly why it was the top-ranked team of the tournament. They continued their roll into the second half, scoring four of the first five goals after halftime.
The win provided the Bruins with their 21st state title berth, reaching the final game of the season every year in the sanctioned history of the sport. Cherry Creek leads all programs with 10 championships.
“It comes with a lot of pressure. But at the same time, we’re thankful to get there every year,” coach Bailey Zerr said.
“I think the expectation sometimes is that Cherry Creek just shows up there (in the title game), when in reality they work really, really hard – day in and day out – to be able to play for a state championship.”
Anema led all scorers with four goals. Teammates Katie Collins and Hali Sibilia added three and two goals, respectively. Chaparral had six players contribute one goal apiece.
Colorado Academy 11, Denver East 7
The second semifinal game was followed up by another usual suspect in Colorado Academy, the three-time defending state champion in search of its program’s fifth overall title.
It pits Cherry Creek against Colorado Academy in the title game for the fourth straight year, this edition between two undefeated teams both 18-0 on the season.
In their semifinal win, the Mustangs were quick to respond to a pair of early goals from Denver East before blowing open their lead midway through the first half. Powering Colorado Academy offensively was scoring trio Katherine Merrifield (four goals), Lauren Russell (three) and Eleanor Greene (two).
Five straight goals in the first half lifted the Mustangs to a 7-4 halftime lead. They were then able to play reserved after the break to secure their victory.
Lucy McHugh was the highlight of the Denver East offense, scoring four of her team’s seven goals. The Angels end their season at 13-5.
Girls lacrosse state championship
Cherry Creek and Colorado Academy will return to the University of Denver for the title game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.