Jefferson Academy had some company at the beginning of the season.
The Jaguars girls soccer team wasn’t the only team in the state that could say they should have gone further than they did in 2014. In reaching Tuesday’s Class 3A championship game against Colorado Academy, though, Jefferson Academy is one of the few who can claim they actually did something about it.
After scoring 101 goals last year and surrendering just 25, the Jaguars as a unit were thinking 2014 was their banner year. However, a 3-2 home loss to The Classical Academy in the quarterfinals proved a stunning end, to players and coaches alike.
Even as the Jaguars were enjoying the aftermath of this past Saturday’s 3-0 semifinal victory over The Academy at Denver’s All City Stadium — more than a year later — it was that memory they drew back on.
“It was really tough last year, losing in the quarterfinals to a team that we should have come out much tougher against,” Jayla Elstad said. “For us to be going to finals now, it’s a great redemption and a great feeling. We’re all ecstatic.”
The Jaguars have been phenomenal in the 2015 playoffs, outscoring opponents 12-3. They were at their best against the Wildcats, holding them to a shot on goal each half while gaining a big early lead.
Being able to maintain the offensive pressure has been crucial, and Jefferson Academy has done it even without Heidi Wendt, a fearsome finisher who will not be returning to the field until the fall when she’ll be in college.
Alycia Wright, the team’s leading scorer, has found help among the masses for JA. Six different girls scored goals in a playoff-opening win against Bayfield, and Wright, Marissa Chapman and Elstad have all the goals in the past two outcomes.
“Alycia is doing so well right now. It took her a minute to figure out how to play without Heidi behind her,” coach Denise Sutton said. “We greatly miss Heidi, but Alycia is figuring things out with Jayla behind her. We mix it up behind her, just doing what we can to replace a talent like Heidi.”
Jefferson Academy is going to need every ounce of firepower against Colorado Academy, the defending 3A champs. The Mustangs have given 5A teams battles all season, and have been stout on defense in the postseason with three thorough victories (16-2 scoring margin).
There was the sense amongst the Jaguars on Saturday that they could exact revenge against The Academy, and there is plenty of optimism that they’ll prove to be tougher against CA than the last time out, a 6-1 setback on April 28.
No matter the outcome, though, Jefferson Academy can go home proud knowing there is no early exit to this season.
“We’re going to go out there and fight, and it’s going to be a good match,” Elstad said. “CA won’t be easy but we’re going to give it our all. We want to make history at JA.”
CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
(3) Jefferson Academy vs. (1) Colorado Academy
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Records: Jefferson Academy 16-2; Colorado Academy 16-2.
Notes: It’s been another exciting season for Denise Sutton’s Jaguars, who made school history last year with a quarterfinals appearance and have expanded on that in 2015 with their first title game. On the other side, Colorado Academy’s seniors have made three championship games in their four years … The Mustangs won the title last year, defeating The Classical Academy 1-0 … With both teams having been constantly tested in the Metropolitan League, CA also loaded its schedule with 5A teams. The Mustangs went 2-2 vs. 5A squads, recently battling 5A finals qualifier Grandview in a 3-1 loss … Going by past history since 2011, it’s Jefferson Academy’s turn to win. The teams have alternated wins since the time (Colorado Academy beat JA 6-1 on April 28 of this year) … Jefferson Academy’s 3-0 semifinal win over The Academy was impressive, with the Wildcats registering just two shots on goal thanks to the Jags’ feisty defense and midfield play … Colorado Academy vaulted to a 4-0 win in its semifinal against Kent Denver, an equally impressive rout.
Follow Adam on Twitter: twitter.com/AdamDunivan24