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CU Falls 15-4 In MPSF Opener To No. 18 DU

Feb 19, 2014

DENVER – The University of Colorado lacrosse team faced a formidable foe in its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener, falling 15-4 here Wednesday to No. 18 Denver.

The Pioneers built an impressive 7-0 lead by halftime and a 14-0 lead with 12:51 remaining in the second half. The Buffaloes scored all four of their goals in the final eight minutes of play, allowing just one DU response in that time, but the Pioneers had already built too large of a stronghold for CU to recover.  

DU looked strong in every statistic and every intangible, putting their experience to work against the first-season Buffs. The reigning MPSF regular season champions outshot CU 33-18, scooped up five more ground balls (14 to nine) and caused 12 of CU’s 18 total turnovers. DU’s goalies combined for a total of 10 saves and the Pioneer defense held the Buffs scoreless in their four free position attempts. The area where CU shined was in draw controls, grabbing 12 to DU’s 10.   

“I think we did very good on winning draw controls,” said Marie Moore, who tied a team-high four draw controls in the game. “I think we just have to settle it down and when the pressure comes, and be able to handle it. I think we know now being in this conference, pressure is going to come at us and we’ll be prepared for the next game.”

Moore also led the Buffs with five shots and two goals. DU only allowed three Buffs to score, while getting eight of their own on to put points on the board, including four players with two or more goals. Sophomore Rachael McKinnon led the Pioneers with four goals, while classmate Monica Lucas contributed a hat trick.

In its first in-state game, CU falls to 1-2 overall, 0-1 MPSF. Denver opens its season strong to take begin 1-0 on the season.

“Denver’s a great team,” CU head coach Ann Elliott said. “They have experience. They’re well coached. Those kids play hard and execute. That was a big difference today. Our kids have to continue to believe in themselves and have that confidence. We came out a little shaky offensively. We played a little bit back on our heels and it hurt us, but that’s easy to fix as long as they continue to believe in themselves.”

CU took the first shot of the game, but DU goalie Maddy Stevenson grabbed her first of nine saves. The Pioneers quickly responded, beginning the game with two successful clears, helping them to two quick goals by 26:23. By 22:40, DU had pushed its lead to 3-0, forcing CU to take its first timeout.

In under two minutes, McKinnon had scored back-to-back goals. Her second, which pushed the lead to 4-0, was followed by a lengthy discussion by the officials. The final call was that a CU push forced a dangerous shot by DU. The offsetting fouls made the goal good. Less than five minutes after that, DU had scored two more goals.

Paige Soenksen grabbed back-to-back saves and CU got back-to-back shots, but DU still pressed its lead to 7-0 by 6:44 when McKinnon grabbed her first hat trick of the season. In the final minutes of the first half, Cali Castagnola shot and scored but had her goal called off due to a DU foul that occurred prior to the goal. Castagnola got another chance off a free position shot, scoring once more, but once more having her goal called off, this time for an illegal stick.

With 26 seconds remaining before the break, Johnna Fusco hammered one high, but CU couldn’t get on the board before halftime. 

“Never giving up is a huge building block for our team,” Katie Carroll said. “We don’t stop. We know when to pick it up. At halftime, we definitely heard that from our coaches.”

It took time for CU to find any rhythm in the second half, with DU scoring two goals in the first four minutes. By the second half’s 17:33 mark, Lucas completed her hat trick with back-to-back goals to push DU’s lead to 11-0. The Pioneers continued their attack, scoring three more goals to grab their biggest lead of the game at 14-0 by 12:51.

With less than eight minutes remaining, the Buffs finally found some offensive momentum. Castagnola rushed toward the crease, finding Carroll left of the goal, where she caught and shot for CU’s first goal. With 5:50 remaining, Fusco rushed in and shot to the left post to give CU its second. Just over one minute later, the Buffs were at it again, with Moore getting an assist from Carroll and forcing DU to take a timeout. 

“Our team has been coached to never give up from the first whistle to the last whistle, and I think that’s what we tried to have as our mentality for the rest of the game,” Carroll said. “The game never stops. You have to keep working at the end even if you’re down by a lot. Denver’s a great team, and it’s nice that we can play them this early and really have the competition instilled in us before we take on the rest of our season. We just had to keep it up at the end. I think that’s where the goals came from.”

In the final minute, Moore won the draw and rushed onto attack. She found Carroll behind the goal, who quickly sent it back to Moore in front of the crease, closing the game at 15-4.

“Momentum can change very quickly in a game,” Moore said. “Quick goals can really change the whole aspect of the game. I think those goals definitely will help us going into Saturday and being ready for that game.”

CU opens its home season on Saturday, Feb. 22, facing Division II opponent Regis. First draw is at noon at Folsom Field.

“When we built the program, we knew we were going to be challenged,” Elliott said. “We play a lot of great teams in our conference, and we have great teams that are coming in our non-conference schedule. We knew we were going to be challenged. Our focus is on competing and getting better every day. As long as we do that, we’ll move in the right direction and they just have to continue to fight, fight for every little ground ball.”