“They play for something larger than themselves,” is how Head Coach Veronica Scott explains the Colorado Academy Varsity Field Hockey team’s incredible two-year undefeated run, which came to a thrilling conclusion November 1 in their 1–0 Championship victory over Cherry Creek High School’s Bruins under the lights at DPS All-City Stadium in Denver. The win—the team’s 34th in an undefeated streak stretching back to August 2022—brings the Mustangs their second straight Championship trophy in as many years and pushes the program’s State Title count to eight.
That the single-point victory was sealed by Senior forward Zoe Martin, the squad’s leading scorer with 38 this season, via the 100th goal of her high school career merely added an exclamation point to the team’s impressive title run. “I couldn’t ask for a better Senior year,” Martin said after the game. “This team has been all I could imagine, and it’s been an amazing season. Going undefeated is only a part of it.”
The Mustangs’ determined performance versus Cherry Creek, which saw them commanding the ball with precision from end to end and skillfully defending against every Bruin attack, left no room for doubt: This is a team that consistently shows up with intensity and a passion to be their best.
From Martin and her frontline teammates—Junior Addie Chandler, the state’s second-highest scorer with 19 goals, Senior Charlotte Corkins, and Juniors Laura Reidy and Addy Westerberg—to the backfield brick wall provided by nationally-ranked goalie Senior Jessica Lapidus, Senior defender Estella Geller, and Junior defenders Lilly Hall and Meg Stanitski—who collectively have allowed just two goals all season long—every player made essential contributions.
“We are so fortunate to coach athletes who want to excel, who want to get better every practice and succeed in every way they can,” says Scott.
Adds Assistant Coach Elizabeth Drazdowski, “Every player here has bought into the idea of a larger culture. It doesn’t matter if you came to CA in Kindergarten or high school, the culture of competition and being part of that sustains the program from year to year. That’s something we create intentionally and maintain intentionally. When you put on the uniform, it means something to play for CA. You want to represent the school and your teammates and reach the highest level possible, whatever that means in any given season.”
More often than not, that level of commitment means wins—lots of them.
Says Director of Athletics Jon Hill, “This is a special team, and they’ve had an amazing season. They worked so hard for each other every day and it showed, finishing undefeated and hoisting a State Championship trophy on the final day. Coach Scott and her colleagues bring out the best in every player.”
A real battle
Bringing out the best starts early on, but it was especially apparent in the days leading up to the matchup with Cherry Creek, when the girls were walking away from their narrow 1–0 semifinal victory over St. Mary’s Academy. The No. 1-ranked Mustangs knew they had to be well prepared for the No. 2 Bruins. Scott told them: Go into the Championship game expecting a battle.
Right from the start, that is what they got. The Bruins mounted an aggressive offense that mirrored CA’s own attacking style of play. But the Mustang defense orchestrated by Lapidus was just too effective and kept all but a few shots on goal at bay.
Martin, on the other hand, led her side on repeated forays into Cherry Creek’s circle, setting up multiple corner penalty shots, one of which resulted in Martin’s lone, game-winning goal in the second quarter.
From there it was back and forth, with the two experienced teams trading possession and displaying skill and speed from one end of the pitch to the other. Creek earned a series of three penalty corners at one point, drawing Lapidus out of the cage to make multiple saves, but they couldn’t penetrate CA’s dominant defensive play.
With Mustang fans dressed all in black in the packed cheering section, the second half saw even more intense exchanges as the Bruins stepped up their pace to try to get anything past Lapidus, Hall, Geller, and Stanitski. But the four kept denying all of Cherry Creek’s efforts, forcing turnovers and sending the ball yards upfield again and again so that midfielders and forwards could keep up their relentless attacks on the Bruins’ cage.
At the end of the exciting second half, no more goals had been tallied by either side, and the 1–0 score stood to give CA the win. The players celebrated with fans and jubilantly hoisted the Championship trophy—many for a second time.
“This is what a Championship game should look like,” Scott says. “Cherry Creek has a core group of exceptional field hockey players, really committed girls. Watching some of their matches on video, we saw them attacking well, moving the ball around at the back, and using the whole field. We knew we had to keep the pressure on their offense, defend well, and not allow them any opportunities.”
Scott’s game plan went off exactly as hoped.
Of course, it helped that some of her players had been there before—Seniors like Martin, Corkins, Lapidus, and Chandler have been to three state finals during their time on the squad, winning two. “There’s something about knowing how to play a Championship game, in any sport. And these girls know how to win—they know it’s in their hands. All they had to do was go out there and do their jobs, work as a team, and the score took care of itself.”
So much more than sport
According to Scott, the dogged commitment of her players not only to their sport, but also to their teammates and school community, is what sets CA’s Field Hockey program apart.
Scott and Drazdowski both mention Lapidus, who celebrated her 150th career save during the title match, as a shining example of that kind of dedication.
“I’m not sure we’d be here today without Jessica,” Scott acknowledges. “Aside from her incredible ability in the cage, there’s so much else she offers the team. Her commitment is 300 percent on and off the field.” Younger players or those new to the team, Scott goes on, credit Lapidus for reaching out during the day, checking on how they’re doing, and even marshaling supporters to turn out for a Varsity Boys Soccer playoff match.
“Someone like Jessica just sees a bigger picture: She sees the capacity and the capabilities of the team, but also what it needs to get the results we want.”
Adds Drazdowski, “Just like she does in the cage when she communicates with everyone on the field, she does the same kind of organizing off the field. As her role on the team has become bigger, she has become bigger; she’s performed bigger.”
The strength of CA’s players and program has earned the school a national reputation, with athletes committing to play for numerous Division I and Division III programs: Martin, for example, is heading to the University of Michigan, and Lapidus will play for Johns Hopkins.
But, emphasizes Scott, it’s so much more than sport that makes these athletes special.
Several of her players are Senior Portfolio artists, she explains, dedicating tremendous amounts of time to producing a professional-quality body of creative work. Others are science focused—some even had to miss a lunchtime get-together the day of the Championship game so they could do field work for their chemistry class.
“There’s a gentle balance we have to strike,” says Drazdowski. “These student-athletes hardly need encouragement to do more. Often, it’s us reining them in just a little bit. They want so much to excel, and we hold them to the highest standards. At the same time, we provide support: Are you getting the rest you need? How much do you really have going on this weekend?”
Taking care of their girls—taking care of each other—Scott and Drazdowski agree, is the biggest secret of Field Hockey’s success. “There’s a lot of gratitude, on all sides: us for the kids and what they bring to the field; the kids for all the opportunities they’ve found at CA. We’re all blessed to be here.”