KUSA - The cold, snowy evening in October couldn't take away the feeling of warmth radiating from every player's face at midfield.
On the program's fourth try in six years, the Palmer Ridge field hockey team finally won its first state championship in school history, beating Kent Denver in a thrilling shootout victory.
For the seniors on the team, it was their third trip to the state title. But, it was the first time they'd be leaving with a gold trophy.
"It feels so awesome," senior Abby Hermann said. "Freshman year and junior year we weren't able to do it. And, finally being able to do it this year is just so amazing."
That junior year disappointment came against the same team Palmer Ridge beat Thursday night.
In a rematch of last year's state title game, this time it was the Bears--not the Sun Devils-- that got to celebrate at midfield.
"This has been four years in the making," senior Liz Phillips said. "It was definitely awesome to be able to pull it out today. It was a great rematch, and we were excited to play them again."
Winning the first state title in program history didn't come easy. And, it didn't come quickly either.
After Hermann and Jordan Isner scored goals in the first half, Kent Denver's Maddy Johnson responded with two goals of her own in the second half to tie things up and force overtime.
After two scoreless periods of OT, which school had the best field hockey team in the state would be determined by a shootout.
Kent Denver was a nearly perfect 4/5 on its shots. However, perfection was needed to beat the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament.
Palmer Ridge scored on its first four opportunities. Then, it all came down to Phillips, who had a chance to deliver some hardware to the school with one shot in the back of the net.
With a sweet move to get past the goalie, she did just that--sending the entire Palmer Ridge team into an ecstatic celebration of hugs, cheers and tears that would last well into the brisk Denver night.
The Bears had finally done it.
"I was so happy that I got to be on this team with this group of girls, and that we got to do this together," Phillips said.
"All the hard work that we put in has finally come to fruition," Hermann said. "It feels so awesome."
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