LAFAYETTE — As successful as the Centaurus girls lacrosse program has been over the past three seasons — a stretch that includes two appearances in the state semifinals and one in the championship game — one thorn remained.
The Warriors had never beaten Cherry Creek.
Well, that was until Thursday, when the Warriors, ranked third in the state by CHSAANow.com, dispatched the top-ranked Bruins 9-6 at Warrior Stadium. University of Colorado-bound Sarah Brown starred in the milestone victory with six goals.
“Last year, one of their players said we were lucky to be at the state finals,” Brown said. “We wanted to prove to them that it wasn’t luck. We have skill and we’re here for a reason.”
The Warriors (4-0) darted to a 6-3 halftime lead, then patiently held off the hard-charging Bruins (2-1), who are widely considered the state’s premier program. Cherry Creek twice cut the lead to one goal in the second half but never could score the equalizer.
After a Colby Goettelman tally cut Centaurus’ lead to 7-6, Brown scored two goals — the last with 5 minutes, 20 seconds remaining — to hold the Bruins at bay.
“We approached this game as ‘Where are we?'” Centaurus coach Genny Horning said. “What do we need to work on? What are our strengths? Playing this type of competition lets you know where you stand. For us, it was really nice to have them early in the season.”
Warriors goalie Kayli Weiss made seven saves and made certain nothing came easy for the Bruins, who defeated Centaurus 20-10 in the state championship game last season. Goettelman, Olivia List and Brown’s future CU teammate Blair Sisk scored two goals apiece, but that was it for Cherry Creek.
“I think our defense just played really strong as a unit,” Weiss said. “Creek is an amazing team and they have a really strong program. I think we just really proved to ourselves that we can do this.”
Horning said there were times in the second half when the Warriors were tilting into Cherry Creek’s style of play, but they were momentary lapses and quickly remedied after they calmed down.
Olivia Holmes contributed two goals for the Warriors and Park City, Utah transplant Ellie Meyer added one goal and one assist.
“So far in our games, our mental game has been great,” Brown said. “We’ve been starting off a little slow, but we never let it get to us. Everyone, defense to attack to the draw, we just played fantastic. Everyone.”
Brown and the Warriors will be careful not to overrate the early-season victory and not rest on the achievement. The idea is to be peaking at the end of the season, she said.
The Warriors will travel to Florida next week to take on Poly Prep Country Day (N.Y.) and Flint Hill (Va.) and have a scrimmage against a third team.
“We’ll have some good vibes in Florida and hopefully we can keep up the momentum,” Weiss said.
Weiss said the victory against Creek was most satisfying because the Warriors proved that “it was not impossible.”
“It was just good for us,” Horning said. “We played strong for 50 minutes against a really hard opponent.”
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Centaurus 9, Cherry Creek 6
At Warrior Stadium
Cherry Creek (2-1) 3 3 — 6
Centaurus (4-0) 6 3 — 9
Goals — Cherry Creek: Olivia List 2, Blair Sisk 2, Colby Goettelman 2; Centaurus: Sarah Brown 6, Olivia Holmes 2, Ellie Meyer 1.
Assists — Cherry Creek: Sisk 1, Chloe deGrasse 1, Nell List 1; Centaurus: Meyer 1.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Cherry Creek: Quinn Egan (50-9-5); Cherry Creek: Kayli Weiss (50-6-7).