Buffs Lax Take On MPSF Conference Leader USC
QUICKLY: This Friday, April 11, the University of Colorado lacrosse team (6-6, 3-2) will take the field against the USC Trojans (7-4, 5-0) in Boulder at 4 p.m. MST. The Buffaloes are looking to give the Trojans their first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation loss of the season. First 300 fans to the game will receive a free T-shirt!
PAC-12 NETWORKS: Friday's game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Regional.
KNOWING THE OPPONENT: The Trojans are currently riding a four-game win streak, with wins over San Diego State, Fresno State, St. Mary's and California, bringing them to 7-4 overall and 5-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, tying Denver (11-1, 5-0) for first place. Three out of their four losses have been to teams that currently rank in the top 20 or have received votes, No. 4 Boston College (lost 13-10), No. 11 Massachusetts (lost 14-6) and Princeton (lost 14-7). Averaging close to 17 goals per game, USC's offense will look to sophomore attack/midfielder, Caroline de Lyra, who leads the Trojans in points this season with 31 (18 goals, 13 assists). De Lyra is coming off her second four-goal performance this season in USC's 20-15 win against California on Sunday. Freshman midfielder/attack Alex Moore is another threat looking to score and is second to de Lyra in points with 24, but leads the team in goals with 20.
"USC is a good team and they're well-coached," said Colorado head coach Ann Elliott. "They're fast, athletic and they play aggressive all over the field. They definitely have a lot of weapons and can beat you in a lot of different ways. Overall, they go hard and we have to be prepared to play as a team."
On the defensive end, sophomore Liz Shaeffer will be in net with a 7-4 record, 49 saves, a .327 save percentage and a defensive unit allowing close to 10 goals per game.
PAST WEEKEND: The University of Colorado lacrosse team went 1-1 on their trip to California with a win over UC Davis, 14-5, and a loss to then-No. 8 Stanford, 13-5, in MPSF play. Against UC Davis, midfielder Johnna Fusco tallied eight points, scoring five goals and dishing out three assists, while attack/midfielder Cali Castagnola put four goals in for the second game in a row. Freshman goalie Paige Soenksen finished the day with nine saves. Following the win, the Buffs faced then- no. 8 (currently No. 12) Stanford. Between the pipes, Soenksen had a career-high 19 save performance, but the Cardinal ultimately proved to be too much for the Buffs, with a final score of 13-5.
MAKING A STATEMENT: The Buffaloes have an opportunity to make a statement in the MPSF this Friday as they look for a fourth conference win (seventh overall) against USC. The current MPSF Rookie of the Week, goalie Paige Soenksen, will anchor the defense and look to contain the Trojans' high-powered offense. Soenksen is boasting 119 saves on the season, 28 of them coming from this past weekend, as well as a .502 save percentage. On Soenksen's recent performance, coach Elliott stated, "Paige is a great goalie; she's confident and calm back there. She's continuing to develop every day as a leader for us."
Soenksen's play all season has led her to become the rock of the defense. "[Paige] definitely makes the saves that we need and on top of that, she makes a few more, which helps keep us in a lot of games," Elliott said. "We know she is a strong part of the defensive unit and we want to do our best to pressure the attack and make sure she is seeing shots that she can save."
No game or practice is different for the freshman net-minder. She is always finding a way to get better. "Right now, I'm focusing on stepping to the ball with an explosiveness GÇª as well as my communication with the defense," said Soenksen. "We're coming out here every day at practice and working hard on the little things. USC has some good shooters and we want to force them into bad shots by making them take that extra step or make an extra pass."
On the offensive end, Colorado is averaging just over 11 goals a game. The team-leading duo of Johnna Fusco and Cali Castagnola, who have combined for a total of 75 points this season, will face a USC that is holding teams, on average, to about 10 goals a game. Fusco has a team-high 38 points, with 26 goals and 12 assists, and Castagnola has 37, 30 goals and seven assists.
Consistency will be Colorado's biggest offensive focus this week. "We have to continue to develop and just be consistent from one game to the next," said Elliott. "Our offense is about seven people working together; we're going back to the basics that we started early on in the season: getting all seven people on the same page, everybody working, everybody being a threat [to score]."
With that in mind, no one on the team can do it alone. Leading the team in assists with 14, freshman midfielder Katie Macleay, is seeing the field and finding the open looks, as well as providing nine goals this season so far. Midfielders Sarah Lautman (13 goals, one assist) and Marie Moore (21 goals, two assists) can also bring the firepower and are ground ball machines on the field. Lautman has 23 ground balls on the season, while Moore leads the team with 26.