DENVER - As the time wound down Saturday, Air Academy realized it had already watched this movie. It just hoped the sequel brought the same ending as the original.
The Kadets held off a late rally to defeat Kent Denver 13-12 in the girls’ lacrosse state semifinals, and advance to Wednesday’s state title game.
The game mirrored last year's semifinal, in which Air Academy beat Kent Denver 15-14. With the same teams playing in the same venue, the exact situation began to play out as the Kadets again clung to a late lead and faced a potential tying goal near the end.
“I just wanted it to end the same way,” Air Academy coach Sean Harmon said of the frantic final 2 minutes. “It was the same except for last year they shot wide, and this year our goalie (Kenzie Baer) made the save.”
The Sun Devils won the draw after scoring to make it 13-12 with 1:36 remaining, sparking what would be a wild finish. But Baer stopped a point-blank shot to preserve the lead.
“I was just trying to keep my head on the ball and make sure to watch the ball all the way in,” said Baer, who made nine saves. “It went back-and-forth all game, and when it was tied at nine there was a lot of tension, too.”
Air Academy (16-2) led 8-6 with 15 minutes left, but Kent Denver’s Lucy Mower scored three of the next four goals, the third of which knotted the score and forced a Kadet timeout.
“Sean yelled at us in the huddle, which was what we needed, and he told us to pick up our defense,” said Erin Todd, who scored seven goals. “My team was able to play great defense in the second half and it allowed me to take over on offense. I have to give credit to the defense because that’s what wins championships.”
It’s safe to assume that Kent Denver (15-3) won’t be sending Air Academy any Christmas cards this year. This is the third time in four years that the Kadets have eliminated the Sun Devils in the semifinals.
“For many years prior to the last four years we were kind of Kent Denver’s whipping dog in the state tournament," Harmon said. "And it’s nice to get back on the other side of it."
In Wednesday’s state title game at the same University of Denver field Air Academy will face – you guessed it – Cherry Creek, the team that defeated the Kadets 16-11 in the championship match last year.
“We’re excited to face them again,” Todd said. “We respect them but we will be ready for a fight.”