DENVER — Up into the night sky went the trophy, hoisted there by dozens of hands.
Colorado Academy, once more, is the best field hockey team in the state of Colorado.
"It's kind of a bit surreal, to be honest," said Colorado Academy coach Veronica Scott, now in her sixth year.
Colorado Academy ends the season at 18-0-0, becoming the first champion with an unblemished record since the Mustangs did it in 2014.
"These seniors — when these seniors were my freshmen, they were the ones who they were hockey players. They wanted to be hockey players," Scott said. "And that was a difference. Normally we've got the lax players or the soccer players who want to mix in, but these kids were going to win the state championship. They've prepared, and they've done it. And I couldn't be prouder."
It is the program's first title since 2015, which was the last of four-consecutive championships, and sixth overall. Only Kent Denver, with 10, has won more.
Julia Hall, a junior, opened the scoring in the waning minutes of the first half following a penalty corner. Camielle Doherty had an assist. The goal came with just under three minutes remaining.
"That was so important," said junior Katharine Merrifield, a captain for Colorado Academy. "It was definitely a momentum-builder."
Then, in the second half, Merrifield, the state's leading scorer, made it 2-0. It was her 25th goal this season — the highest total in at least a decade.
After Merrifield's goal, Regis Jesuit turned up the pressure and won a number of penalty corners. But Rebecca Kerr, the Mustangs' goalie, made a number of key saves to keep the Raiders scoreless midway through the second half.
Kerr and Madeline Gordon have shared goalie duties for Colorado Academy this season, with Gordon starting the first half, and Kerr starting the second.
"They're such a great combination, and we had no reason to separate them," Scott said. "And it worked."
Regis Jesuit made it a one-goal game when Caitrin Lombardo poked home a loose ball in front of the goal with eight minutes to play.
The Raiders (14-2-2) looked to have a great chance to tie the game with 4:27 remaining, but a Colorado Academy defender was able to clear the ball in front of an open net. The Mustangs' defense held firm as the clocked ticked down the remaining time, setting off a celebration.
The semifinals and championship game were pushed back a week by a massive snowstorm. Ultimately, the two rounds were played on back-to-back nights.
"Credit to the girls: It just didn't phase them," Scott said. "They just said, Alright, the business is the business, and we'll carry on how we have to carry on: rain, hail or snow. They took it all in stride."