The smart, feisty play that is the hallmark of the top-seeded Colorado Academy Varsity Field Hockey Team under Head Coach Veronica Scott stymied the plans of strong rival Regis Jesuit High School, No. 2 in the state, as the Mustangs claimed the 2022 CHSAA Field Hockey State Championship with a 2–0 victory in the match at Cherry Creek High School’s Stutler Bowl on November 2.
Regis had won the title for two straight years, including their victory over CA just last year, but during the regular fall season, the Mustangs defeated the Raiders twice, signaling it was their time for glory. The Mustangs last won the title in 2019.
“This is an amazing feeling,” said goalkeeper Jessica Lapidus, a Junior, after a game in which she fought off numerous shots on the net by a determined Regis offense. “Given we lost to them this time last year, we had to prove to everyone that we could win a State Championship.”
Junior forward Zoe Martin agreed, “We’ve been fighting for this win for three years. Throughout the whole season, it has been a step-by-step process. We all just wanted it so bad. We had the intensity. And we all just said, ‘Keep fighting, keep fighting.’ To finally get here and accomplish it has been great.”
Martin, who was responsible for one-half of CA’s two points against Regis and finished the season leading the state in scoring with 28 goals, continued, “This is a dream come true; there’s no one else I’d rather win with.”
“I feel immense pride for the girls,” acknowledges Scott. “I knew they could do it. And they did. They stuck to the game plan and did all the right things. I have huge respect for a great opponent who had to come out and play a hard game.”
Athletic Director Bill Hall says, “This was a rewarding night for the team and the CA community. The championship is a byproduct of the work the girls put in. The CA girls dominated Regis with their skill, athleticism, and teamwork. The winning, team-first culture of CA athletics was on fine display.”
Smart, determined play
Dressed all in white to match the uniforms the players wore for this championship moment, CA students, faculty, staff, and a sizable alumni contingent crowded together in Stutler’s stands to cheer on the Mustangs, as the game began with tense, back-and-forth play that was no doubt influenced by the emotions of the championship setting.
CA spent the first quarter testing the now-familiar Regis gameplay and adjusting to the slower speed of the Cherry Creek turf. Their semifinal 3–2 win over Arapahoe High School the previous night, on the same field, had been hard fought, coming at the last minute during an overtime finish. Regis, on the other hand, which had faced Kent Denver at Stutler Bowl immediately following CA’s win, handily won their semifinal match 1–0.
According to Scott, “Our two previous wins over Regis this season were on a faster pitch, which really suited our gameplay. Coming off of their win against Kent, Regis was playing with confidence; they were fit and fierce. The field was a huge factor, and our girls had to figure out in the moment how to adjust their play and target the opponent’s vulnerabilities.”
Despite multiple shots on goal by CA’s Martin, the score remained tied at 0–0 throughout the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, though, the Mustangs’ smarts seemed to take over. CA earned multiple penalty corners, allowing Sophomore forward Addie Chandler to set up numerous attacks on the Regis goal. With an assist from Senior midfielder Sophie Brants, Chandler herself was able to notch the first goal for CA.
“We’ve got a core group of players—including Chandler—who are really developing that ‘field hockey IQ,’” says Assistant Coach Elizabeth Drazdowski. “They have the right stuff on the field. They are understanding the game at a higher level, responding in real time to what’s happening around them.”
Scott adds, “As a coach, I always say I need to be almost redundant on game day. We’ve done our work, we’ve prepared them as well as we can, but when they are on the field, their field hockey IQ takes over, and they start to play smart and play our game.”
“That’s what happened,” continues Scott, “and the win was there for the taking.”
CA returned to the field after halftime with a 1–0 lead, quickly applying even more pressure against Regis. A flick into the goal by Martin, set up by yet another corner from Chandler, soon followed to yield a 2–0 lead for the Mustangs. Regis responded with increased aggression, but CA’s defenders, including Seniors Faith Reeman, Olivia Aguirre, Diana Reidy, and Sophomore Meg Stanitski, along with goalkeeper Lapidus, fought off their attacks.
The pattern continued throughout the third and fourth quarters. CA, with a comfortable lead, displayed speed and technical prowess on offense, while its defensive line held firm against Regis’s advances.
As the final minutes wound down, excitement increased among the chanting, white-clad CA fans, and when the game clock reached zero, students rushed toward the field to congratulate an elated team. Hoisting the championship trophy and banner, the Mustangs celebrated a well-deserved win which elevated CA to second all-time winners in the state, with seven field hockey championships.
“They came into this season with the goal of winning,” says Scott. “Their play showed it. The hard work all season long, the incredible athleticism, the belief and motivation—it was all out on the field today.”
More than one game
When Scott reflects on what led to this moment, she speaks of the CA community—of players, families, and faculty and staff—that rallies together around the sport that she loves.
“I am blessed to come from the field hockey world in Australia and Europe,” she says, “where sport is a community. It’s not just one game. That’s what I’ve tried to encourage and build here—how do we strengthen the community around this sport?”
Scott and Drazdowski cite the “remarkable group of girls” on the Varsity squad as representing the beating heart of that community.
Senior Co-Captain Reidy has been a steadfast team leader, Scott says, bringing teammates together when they need it most.
“She takes on all their emotions during tough moments,” adds Drazdowski, “and she’s strong for the team all the time. It’s not easy to be that kind of leader, but she’s been incredible this season.”
Senior Co-Captain Sophie Brants and Junior Co-Captains Lapidus and Martin have brought their own strengths to the team. While Lapidus has excelled in goal, and Martin is the leading scorer in the state, it is the relationships they have built with teammates that stand out in their coaches’ minds.
“All the captains deserve a shoutout,” says Scott. “Each one has a different leadership style, and this means they’ve been able to connect with every girl on the team.”
But, despite their invaluable contributions to the team, it isn’t just the leaders and the standout scorers that define the CA Field Hockey community. Scott mentions other players who, though their names may not appear on the stat line of many games, bring determination and spirit to the pitch day in and day out.
Defenders Aguirre and Stanitski earned respect throughout the fall for their tireless work ethic, and Scott names Chandler as “instrumental” at the front. Senior forwards Anna Colpack and Ava DelZotto, along with midfielder Riley Leversedge, impressed with their season-long focus on improving their game.
“For me,” says Scott, “accomplishments like these are the true highlights of the season. When we, as coaches, see players putting in the effort—whether or not they receive recognition for it—that makes our hearts sing.”
Senior Piper Adams is another such competitor. The team’s second goalkeeper, Adams “knows she may not see a lot of minutes in the game,” explains Scott, “but she is constantly there; she is constantly ready. She practices every day with intensity, and she shows up at each match ready to be our starter.”
“It’s athletes like these who make the difference,” says Scott. “These girls are giving everything they can at practice, and, whether or not they’re starting players, they’re showing up to support the team. They’re giving everything they have, which is beautiful.”
The Varsity girls’ efforts are supported by the behind-the-scenes dedication of yet another essential part of the CA Field Hockey community—the team parents.
“Our families truly embrace this community,” says Scott, “and that has been critical in our success. At every game, for example, we know our players are not going to go hungry—because our families have turned up with food to keep them fueled.”
A culture of growth
Drazdowski argues that the unique culture around sport at CA also contributes to the strength of Field Hockey and other programs.
“The no-cut approach is special,” she says. “We’ve got four field hockey teams here, which is unheard-of for a school our size. Kids know they can try a new sport in Ninth or Tenth Grade, and they’re not going to be cut. There’s a team for them to play on, and if there’s not, we’ll make one. It gives every athlete a chance to learn, to find support, to step outside of their comfort zone, and try new things.”
Scott calls out the JV and other teams as playing an important role in bolstering the community around the sport.
“Those younger players put in the same hours and work just as hard. They may not get the recognition, but they are part of our success nonetheless. They are how we build a strong program—they are on the doorstep and can see what they can potentially achieve the next year. Honestly, our JV squad is strong enough that I’d have them compete at the Varsity level if I could.”
Hall says, “The CA Field Hockey program has shown tremendous growth over the past few seasons. Coaches Scott, Drazdowski, and Erin Conrad, along with the rest of the staff, have developed great depth throughout the program, creating a healthy level of competition. Players have answered the call in terms of training expectations, off-season work, and skill development. The strength of the Varsity team is the group, not individuals. My thanks to the coaches for implementing the plan, sticking to the process, and remaining patient as the season unfolded. They have built one of the top programs west of the Mississippi.”
That several Field Hockey alumni have returned to CA to coach for Scott this year is a testament to the lasting impact such a program can have. “That really sums up what we’re working toward,” she says. “My passion is growing the community around this sport, and to have alumni coming back and working with our youngest players is incredibly gratifying.”
Scott relates a story shared with her by the parent of a Sophomore player who is just getting started in the program. “He said we underestimate the impact and the influence that our Seniors have on younger athletes. His daughter actually came to him and said how grateful she was that she had a group of Seniors who were there to support her. She said she hopes that when she’s a Senior, she’ll get to be there for others.”