No. 1-ranked Colorado Academy Varsity Girls Lacrosse went into their Class 5A Championship matchup May 19 against No. 6-ranked Regis Jesuit carrying one of the greatest winning streaks in Colorado high school sports. At the University of Denver’s Barton Lacrosse Stadium, the Mustangs, led by first-year Head Coach Sonorah Hunter, were seeking their thirty-first consecutive postseason win and their eighth consecutive State Championship, which would be the program’s ninth overall.
It’s a legacy that suggests one thing: when it comes to important contests, this is a team that usually gets what it wants.
Sure enough, when the buzzer sounded at the end of the night game, the CA squad joined jubilant fans in the middle of the field under the lights to celebrate another incredible victory taken from a team that, through no fault of their own, were unable to stop the multi-year momentum behind these Mustangs. Claiming an 11-6 win against the Raiders, the CA squad relied on their speed, aggressiveness, rock-solid defense, and a roster full of accomplished scorers to cement their place as the top program in Colorado and the West Region and one of the best in the nation.
Says Hunter, “This is an incredibly special group of girls. They work hard. They have phenomenal individual skills. They’ve got all these titles behind them. We’ve got kids that are committed to some of the best schools in the country for lacrosse. Winning is their bread and butter.”
“When I first arrived at CA,” Hunter continues, “I immediately noticed how dedicated these girls are not only to the sport, but also to the team itself. They share the ball, they buy in defensively, different players step up all over the field, and they’re excited about that. They are really grateful and very supportive of each other, and it’s just a special thing to be a part of.”
After a victory celebration filled with screams and hugs that made this feel like their first state title—not the ninth—Junior attacker Zoe Martin, the team’s leading scorer with 76 regular-season goals, 19 during the postseason, and three on the night, said, “These players are some of my best friends, and to win with them and a new coach feels amazing. This isn’t so much about keeping our streak going—it’s about playing for each other. Every year it’s a different feeling, and it feels great to win all over again.”
According to Junior midfielder Charlotte Corkins, whose two goals made her another of the six Mustang scorers during the game, “The best thing about lacrosse at CA is that everybody buys into our culture and our team. I think it’s so great that we have this tradition and that people have such pride to play for CA.”
Talent runs deep
That both Corkins and Martin are already committed to playing college lacrosse—Corkins with the University of North Carolina and Martin at the University of Michigan—is a testament to the depth and diversity of talent on this year’s squad, and a good indicator of why it’s so difficult for opponents to make any sort of dent against the Mustangs.
Junior Alex May, another top recruit who will play for USC after she graduates, kicked off the night with a goal in the game’s opening minutes, which was quickly followed by another from Martin. Meanwhile, CA’s defense, led by Senior goalie Olivia Aguirre—bound for Trinity College next fall—stymied all of Regis’s attacks with help from Senior defender Riley Leversedge, who will go to play for Marquette University, and fellow Senior Ari Foreman.
The hits on offense kept coming, as Junior midfielder Estella Geller—a Bucknell University commit—and Sophomore attacker Addy Smith joined in to push the score to 4-0 in favor of the Mustangs. And even at that early stage, the eventual win almost felt like a sure thing, with CA executing their game plan to a T and maintaining a three- or four-goal lead against a strong Regis lineup throughout the first half.
“Our ability to control the draw was incredibly important,” explains Hunter, who holds the record for draw controls at the University of Denver, where she played midfield for the Division I Pioneers. “It’s an area where we have struggled at times, but it’s been a point of emphasis throughout the season. And with our defense really staying disciplined, we created great transitions and kept the ball in the hands of our offense, who are incredibly quick-scoring.”
Indeed, Martin grabbed two more goals in the first half on diving shots inside the crease, and Geller tallied one more, putting the Mustangs up 7-3 by halftime.
“Our success really comes from how we’re able to collaborate and work together,” explains Hunter. “If something gets shut off, we move on to the next option we have. We’re resilient. We’re prepared for literally everything, and it allows us to dominate against any defense.”
That versatility was evident at the start of the second half, when talented Sophomore goalie Alexa Lang took over for Aguirre. “It’s not talked about very much, but these two goalies have brought something incredible to the team,” says Hunter. “Their relationship on and off the field is amazing, and they are so supportive of each other.”
Like Aguirre, Lang fought off numerous Raider attacks, holding them to just three goals during the second half, while still more CA players added four to the team’s total: Corkins with two, Senior midfielder Anna Colpack—who is committed to Stanford University—with one, and Junior midfielder Skylar May—who will play for USC after graduation—with another.
In the end, the aggressive attacking and defensive lockdown were too much for Regis, a tremendous team who are wonderfully coached by Head Coach Crysti Foote, says Hunter. “Kudos to them for making it to the State Championship finals for the first time. They played with confidence, but we certainly had the upper hand in experience.”
Leaders for the future
What may be most impressive about the CA squad’s performance is just how many of the team’s key contributors are still Sophomores and Juniors. “Zoe really runs our offense,” Hunter says, “keeping us consistent with her steadiness and patience. And Charlotte is so excited to be back out on the field after an ACL injury last year; she has the ability to carry this team.”
Still, Hunter credits the Mustang Seniors for their strong leadership all season long. “It’s a smaller group,” she says, “but we are where we are because of the way that they have really bought into our coaching. We’ve developed a special bond that’s really trickled down to the rest of the team. We came into the season with some feedback that asked them to step up their performance, and it’s been a privilege to watch them grow.”
Hunter’s coaching staff, which includes assistants Casey Bocklet and Katie Schneider, also played a key role. “Casey and Katie developed a lot of connections and relationships and trust with our players before I ever arrived, so for us to be able to collaborate together and really drive the success of the team has been very special.”
All told, the depth of talent and program-wide contributions on display throughout this season and in the title game set the Mustangs up for another successful season next year, when so many clutch players will return and Hunter will continue to build on the work she’s done this year.
“I’ve been so welcomed into this community, with the support of the parents, Athletic Director Bill Hall, and the entire department,” she acknowledges. “There’s such a sense of family, where we’re all coming together to help the kids do what they love to do. Even though it’s hard to be the new person on the field, I feel like I’ve been able to coach this team to a level I never expected.”
For Martin, who held the championship trophy aloft with her teammates after CA’s win, next year looks to be a truly special one. “My main goal for my Senior year is to tie Cherry Creek’s record of 10 state titles.”
But for now, the team has another memorable win to savor. “My intention from the beginning was to enjoy every moment,” said Colpack at the end of her last game for CA. “This team is incredible, and I’m so grateful for everything that happened this year.”