DENVER - Air Academy has not forgotten the pain it felt from last year's 13-9 loss to Cherry Creek in the state semifinals at University of Denver's Peter Barton Stadium.
On Saturday, the No. 3 Kadets sent a message to Cherry Creek by routing No. 2 Chatfield 22-8 in the state semifinals at the site of last year's misery shortly after the fifth-seeded Bruins had won their semifinal game against No. 1 Centaurus 12-11.
"That fuels that fire, for sure," senior Kaley Holmes said. "We all remember that."
Holmes (five goals) was one of six goal scorers who found the back of the net to give Air Academy a highly anticipated rematch against Cherry Creek (12-6) on Wednesday night for the state title.
It didn't take long Saturday for the Kadets (16-2) to prove they meant business. Natalie Berg sprinted across the DU turf after the opening faceoff, making quick work of the Chatfield (17-1) defense, and ripped a shot into the back of the net just 19 seconds into the game as Air Academy opened up a 4-0 lead in less than a minute and a half.
They weren't done though, pouring on another 11 goals in the Kadets' dominant 15-4 first half. MacEllen McDonough scored all four of her goals in the game's first 25 minutes.
"We had kind of a rough start last game against Kent (Denver), so it was really important for us to come out really hard and try and keep that momentum going," McDonough said.
Saturday was simply a showcase of how talented the Kadets' offense can be when rolling on all cylinders. It didn't matter which navy jersey was cradling the lacrosse ball, it was more than likely going to find its way into the back of the Chatfield net.
It was a showcase of speed, finesse, power and skill by the Air Academy seniors, who scored 17 of the Kadets' 22 goals.
Emily Trousil scored three of her season-high five goals before halftime.
"That's a big thing about our team," Trousil said. "Everyone on our team can score. If someone locks off someone, we still have six other people in the zone to score."
Air Academy simply imposed its will against previously undefeated Chatfield, which was making its first trip to the semifinals.
Chatfield coach Adam Everett said the Kadets' offense was unlike anything the Chargers, who defeated Cherry Creek 14-9 on March 21, had seen.
"It was overwhelming how well they executed their game plan," Everett said. "Air Academy is a very good team. Seeing something like that was overwhelming for the girls and we got put on the back of our heels."
Colorado goal-scoring leader Kendra Lanuza finished with three goals for the Chargers to eclipse the 100-goal mark this season.
Most of all, though, the biggest thing Saturday was the Kadets' demonstration of determination.
Air Academy coach Sean Harmon had no doubt that his team was motivated after seeing Cherry Creek advance to the state final.
"Yeah, every year it's we have to go through Creek to win the title," Harmon said. "There's something about playoff time. I am hoping we can keep that aura and ride that into Wednesday."
Cherry Creek has won six of the past eight state titles, with Air Academy claiming the other two (2012, 2009).
"It feels amazing to come back here," Holmes said. "Blood, sweat and tears, it's true. We worked so hard to come back and to get to this point and to win.
"We want to win it all."