HIGHLANDS RANCH — After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in quite awhile last season, the Centaurus girls lacrosse team banded together — quite literally — for another strong season under second year head coach Todd Breithaupt.
The veteran coach, after Thursday's playoff contest against ThunderRidge, vowed there would be more to come from this Warriors program, a district-wide team that represents many Boulder Valley schools.
Their playoff contest at Shea Stadium against the Grizzlies didn't quite get started like they had envisioned, and it resulted in a 10-6 loss that ended their season at 11-5. However, the Warriors did end the game with an energetic rally that was more symbolic of the team they think they can be in the future.
"It was a great season and I'm very proud of all the girls for setting some goals and hitting some of them this season," coach Breithaupt said of the team that turned the program back to its winning ways and that will return most of its attack. "They wish they could have made a run, sure, but how can you not be proud of a group of girls that banded together from different schools and do their thing?"
Both ThunderRidge and Centaurus had entered the second round after receiving a bye with identical 11-4 records, but the Grizzlies were the No. 7 seed by virtue of a stronger RPI. The Grizzlies also averaged about three more goals a game during the season.
The Centaurus defense, spearheaded by senior Morgan Pittser's 10 saves, helped keep ThunderRidge well under its average of 15 goals. But the Grizzlies did have a strong run in the middle of the game that allowed them to gain as much as a 9-2 lead in the second half.
ThunderRidge took the lead for good at 3-2 with 6 minutes, 57 seconds to go in the first half on a goal from Sara Stewart, and Stewart found the net again with 5:47 left to make it 4-2. The Grizzlies added five more goals in a row, including scores 21 seconds before halftime and another 21 ticks after the break.
ThunderRidge led 9-2 with 15:29 left, but Centaurus did get a little more organized from there to score four of the final five goals of the game. Delaney Pratt recorded her first goal of the contest off a beautiful feed from Claire Sullivan to make it 10-6 with 8:56 remaining, but the Warriors missed on a few penalty start opportunities down the stretch while ThunderRidge also played to possess.
"I think when we go back and look at everything the tale of the tape will be ground balls," Breithaupt said. "They out-groundballed us in all facets of the game for the most part, and through the course of a game that's going to cost you opportunities.
"We started to be able to clear some things out and got on a little run. Some things were going our way, and then a couple of tough plays here and there and it just didn't go our way."
"This late in the season, I think everyone's a little fatigued but we did a great job of getting our heads back in the game bringing it back," said Pittser, who wrapped up a stellar career. "I'm super proud of how far we came with our new coach, and we've established an amazing bond that will make this team a fun team to watch next year."
Of note, Pittser was forced to leave for an early stretch of time with an injury, but reserve goalie Tara Burtness came in and made two key saves while allowing just one goal.
ThunderRidge 10, Centaurus 6
At Shea StadiumCentaurus (11-5) 2 4—6
ThunderRidge (12-4) 6 4—10
Goals — Centaurus: Kyra Barnes 2, Campbell Breithaupt 1, Delaney Pratt 1, Claire Sullivan 1, Tasha Ragland 1; ThunderRidge: Logan Derosia 3, Sara Stewart 3, Evi Patterson 1, Sophia Frane 1, Megan Dunn 1, Jasmine Shells 1.
Assists — Centaurus: Sullivan; ThunderRidge: Patterson.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Centaurus: Morgan Pittser (45-9-10), Tara Burtness (5-1-2); ThunderRidge: Jordan Moilanan (50-6-8).