October 27, 2011 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:49 am
MONUMENT • This season’s Palmer Ridge field hockey team became the first to reach the state semifinals. It won’t be the first to reach the state championship game.
No. 2 Colorado Academy shut out No. 3 Palmer Ridge for the second time this season, winning 2-0 at Don Breese Stadium in Monument on Thursday night and advancing to Monday’s championship game against Kent Denver, 3-2 overtime winners over Mountain Vista.
The Mustangs defense frustrated the Bears (11-2-3), holding them to one shot on goal, and that came early in the first half.
“They’re a very pushy team,” Bears forward Shannon Bryant said. “They were all over our bodies. Their sticks were always illegal; dangerously putting their sticks on us. I always get frustrated when playing this team.”
It took a while for the offense to get going for the Mustangs (12-1-1), but when it did it quickly capitalized. Ali Clarke outraced the Bears back line, saw the ball trickle between charging Bears goalie Mallory Cuccio’s legs and slapped the ball into the goal as she was tripped and flew through the air. It was the Mustangs’ first shot on goal with only 2:12 remaining in the first half.
“(Sara Ozawa) just passed it and I ran really fast, right past the goalie,” Clarke said. “I just tipped it. It was pretty sick.”
Bears defender Hannah Mikelson was surprised at Clarke’s speed.
“There was a break down tonight,” Mikelson said. “It was definitely a wakeup call. It was mostly a breakdown in communication on our part.”
The Bears never seriously threatened. They never had a penalty corner in the second half and rarely strung together more than a couple passes. And when Ozawa scored on a penalty corner 10:42 into the second half, the Bears knew they had an uphill battle.
“Offense has kind of been a problem with us this year,” coach Paul Lewis said. “We have the ability to score at any time, we just didn’t get enough of the corners that we needed to get the shots and set up our opportunities.”
The teams played to a 0-0 draw in their first meeting this season. The Bears knew how tough it would be to break through against the Colorado Academy, especially with their struggles to score this season.
“We weren’t using our 2-on-1 passing as much as we should have been,” Lewis said. “I think we tried to take on a little too much as individuals, trying to carry the weight of the team on our backs instead of getting the passes going.”
For the first time in the team’s history the Bears reached the semifinals. And they did it the first year the district earned the honor of hosting the semifinals.
“I definitely wish we could’ve gone to the finals, that was our goal all along,” Mikelson said. “But we’ve gone farther than any other field hockey team from District 38. That’s definitely a plus, but I wish we could have gone all the way.”