Those who expected a drop-off from the Centaurus girls lacrosse team last season weren’t exactly out of their minds.
Star player Emma Lazaroff had departed to Duke, the same Lazaroff that accumulated a boatload of local and national honors after leading the nation with a record-setting 143 goals in 2012. Expecting the Warriors to be as good without Lazaroff seemed foolhardy, a sucker’s bet.
But it happened.
Lazaroff helped the Warriors reach the final four in 2011 and 2012, but last year’s squad one-upped those achievements by reaching the state championship game. The Warriors ultimately settled for second place after losing to perennial power Cherry Creek in the final, but it spoke volumes about the program.
“I had a group of girls that had experienced playoffs and state, and had that desire and drive to go there again,” Warriors coach Genny Horning said. “They were really committed, and we had a lot of girls back from the year prior. We graduated Emma of course, but everybody had that team-first, ‘let’s do this’ drive.”
It was the type of season that morphs a team from a squad experiencing a good cycle to one that has the intangibles of a perennial contender.
Horning deflects the credit to the athletes, saying she just “blows the whistle when I need to,” and that the players are responsible for the deep runs into the state tournament. But Horning must be doing something right, judging by the accolades.
After last season, she received three awards: Metro League coach of the year as awarded by the league; Colorado coach of the year, as selected by The Denver Post; and the Sectional Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High Schools, which rated Horning the top coach in the southwestern section.
“She works so hard and she deserves all the credit she gets,” Warriors senior Sarah Brown said. “I think she’s both intense and relaxed. She pushes us, but I don’t think she pushes us too hard.”
Brown inherited the leading-scorer role last season. Now a senior and inked to play at the University of Colorado next season, Brown scored 76 goals and added 30 assists last season. Not quite Lazaroff numbers, but when added to those of Sarah Myres (48 goals and 30 assists), Audrey Brown (35 and 13), Olivia Holmes (32 and 13) and Andrea Kim (30 and 12), it’s a hefty tally.
All but Audrey Brown will be back this season. The sophomore sister of Sarah Brown endured a season-ending ACL tear in a scrimmage with her club team and will be shelved for the spring. She’ll remain close with the team while she recuperates.
“I was really bummed,” Sarah Brown said. “At first, the trainer told us that it was just an MCL, which would heal in four to six weeks. But when I found out it wasn’t, I was upset because we can use her. She’s a great player and she’s getting even better.”
The Warriors, who opened the season Wednesday with a 17-9 win at Heritage/Littleton, have become accustomed to dealing with key losses. Their hefty contingent of returners also includes goalie Kayli Weiss and junior forward Katherine Burns.
Lazaroff is remembered fondly as the one who exhibited the desire of a winner and helped prove the Warriors can be a factor on a statewide scale. Those who remained took the lacrosse stick from there and have added onto the foundation Lazaroff helped construct.
“I would say last year, and even more so as we’re coming together this year, it’s more of a team focus,” Horning said. “There isn’t the one superstar who everyone is talking about. There’s this group of players who are all about, ‘Let’s leave it all out there on the field and let’s make ourselves better.'”
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