The Gazette Preps Field Hockey Coach of the Year: Paul Lewis, Palmer Ridge

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Photo - Palmer Ridge coach Paul Lewis - Palmer Ridge fell to Kent Denver 2-0 in the field hockey state championship game Thursday, October 27, 2016 at All-City Stadium in Denver. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Palmer Ridge coach Paul Lewis - Palmer Ridge fell to Kent Denver 2-0 in the field hockey state championship game Thursday, October 27, 2016 at All-City Stadium in Denver. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

It must've been heartbreaking for the Palmer Ridge field hockey program to get to so close to a state championship and fall just short - three times since 2012, to be exact.

Not this year, though.

The Bears shook off all those shortcomings and finally captured a championship, in arguably the most dramatic way possible. It took them two overtimes and a shootout to beat a relentless Kent Denver on a cold and snowy October night.

And in the end, coach Paul Lewis took a sigh of relief.

In his 10th season, he finally got it.

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The Bears' historic -- and record-breaking -- season helped land Lewis the honor of The Gazette Field Hockey Coach of the Year.

"To get state, it doesn't get much better than that," he said. "They came together as a group, as a whole."

Shortly after winning the coveted state championship, Lewis announced that he was retiring from coaching to spend more time with his 17-year-old son, Vaughn, who has Stage 4 melanoma.

This season, Palmer Ridge set some records. They finished with the program's most single-season wins (16), most goals scored (75) and, of course, first-ever state championship banner.

Advancing wasn't unexpected for the Bears. Lewis knew he had to do something more to help them overcome history, so in the offseason he kept field hockey off their minds.

The Palmer Ridge girls went on hikes and participated in team-building exercises that focused on unity and leadership.

"I think that was something that worked out real successfully," Lewis said.

This togetherness showed in the state title game. The Bears went up 2-0 before Kent Denver tied it up and forced extra time. They didn't panic or get on each other for letting the lead slip.

They stuck together.

"The girls persevered," Lewis said. "When they went to the shootout, I felt good about it. The girls made all their shots in the shootout and our goalie made a stop, and it was history."