AURORA – The Season C field hockey state title game was a long-awaited championship event for its players, coaches and fans alike, and it produced a fittingly classic championship moment.
With the game still tied entering a second overtime period, Regis Jesuit’s Ellie Johnson fired a shot that tipped off teammate Cate Lord’s stick and into the goal to give the fourth-seeded Raiders a 2-1 sudden-death victory over No. 2 Cherry Creek at the Stutler Bowl on Thursday night. It was the Raiders’ second state championship in three seasons, and the uniqueness and unusual amount of effort and anticipation made this latest title an extra-special accomplishment for this year’s group.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Johnson said. “We’ve been working at this for fourteen months with COVID pushing it back. This is what we’ve been working for and it’s amazing.”
In what was essentially a rubber match between two rivals who split a pair of matches against one another during the regular season, Lily Castiglione gave the Raiders (9-1) the first lead of the game when she scored with 8 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Cherry Creek’s Ella Pratt tied the game with a penalty shot for the Bruins (10-2) in the third quarter.
After that, the teams played a scoreless stalemate until the game was forced to be decided by 7-on-7 play in the second overtime. But just 48 seconds after that period began, the Raiders scored their decisive goal to seal the victory.
“We practiced a 7-on-7 a few days before actually doing it just in case it gets to that,” Lord said. “So, we were so ready to do it. And we just have really good connections moving down the field, so I think that was to our advantage. We had the advantage of being able to start with the ball and we just did some really nice give-and-goes. We got a foul down right outside the circle. Ellie had some great moves, hit it in, we got a tip off of it and then scored.
“It was beautiful. It was over so quick, I don’t think people were ready for it. Even we were kind of stunned at the moment it happened.”
After the game, the Regis Jesuit student section rushed onto the field to celebrate with the Raiders in what was one of the first big championship events that allowed significant student attendance. The state title was the Regis Jesuit program’s second.
“It was a lot to get here,” Raiders head coach Spencer Wagner said. “We’ve been training for 18 months now. We’ve been quarantined, masked, cancelled, snowed out, it’s been a lot. This is more relief for me than celebration. I thought the game was phenomenal and I though Creek played phenomenal. They shut us down and kept us to one for 70 minutes until that second overtime. But we trained for it and prepared for it, and I’m so pleased with how the girls played and I couldn’t be prouder.”
The Raiders defeated No. 1 Colorado Academy in the semifinals to reach the championship game, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was rescheduled for Thursday because of heavy rain and lightning. Cherry Creek, who won the state championship in 2007, got past No. 3 Palmer Ridge in the semifinals.