Field hockey in Jeffco finds new home at Dakota Ridge

LITTLETON — For nearly a decade the lone girls field hockey program in Jeffco was based at Golden High School.

A move last spring allowed Dakota Ridge High School in South Jeffco to take over reins of the field hockey program that has drawn student-athletes from across the district and even outside Jeffco.

“Honestly, at first I was kind of skeptical. I was worried if we moved schools that some kids wouldn’t change with us,” Dakota Ridge senior Abby Steinman said of the move from Golden to Dakota Ridge. “But now that it’s the season we’ve got more players than last season.”

Dakota Ridge senior Abby Steinman, far left, leads drills during practice Aug. 16. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Jessica Summers spent last year as the head coach at Golden. She made the move over to stay on guiding the program at Dakota Ridge.

“The administration has been very supportive ever since Dakota Ridge said it was going to take the program,” Summers said. “It’s really cool.”

Summers, originally from Pennsylvania, believes the sport of field hockey is primed to have a tremendous growth in Colorado.

“It’s not really popular yet, but I feel in the next four years it’s going to really be booming like lacrosse has exploded in Colorado,” said Summers who spent time coaching in Holland over the summer.

The growth of Dakota Ridge’s program has already happened. Last season Summers didn’t have an assistant coach at Golden. This year Summers has two assistant coaches in two former college players in Megan Hollenbach and Kelsey Boyce.

Dakota Ridge opens its season at Cherry Creek on Thursday, Aug. 23. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

There are plenty of young student-athletes just learning the game of field hockey for the Eagles this season. Steinman will be one of Dakota Ridge’s most experienced players. She has been playing the sport since before the 7th-grade.

“I helped my teammates out with their hits (shots) a few days ago,” Steinman said of being a leader on the young squad. “It feels good to help them because then I know we are making the team better. If they improve we’ll all improve.”

Golden’s last winning record was in 2015 when the program had back-to-back state playoff appearances. The program has never won a playoff game, but Summers is intent on haven’t a long-term plan to get the new Dakota Ridge based program up to the level of the elite teams like Palmer Ridge, Kent Denver, Colorado Academy and Cherry Creek.

“It’s really awesome to see these girls go from square one in the beginning of the season and see what they learn, how they grow and see their passion for the sport at the end of the season,” said Summers, who hopes to get the Eagles to a new level. “It is what really keeps me motivated.”

Dakota Ridge opens it season against Cherry Creek at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23, at Stutler Bowl. The Eagles will play home games at the Rooney Road Sports Complex in Golden. Dakota Ridge’s home opener is Aug. 30 against Fossil Ridge.

Girls field hockey could have boom in interest like lacrosse has in Colorado over the past two decades. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)