CU Ranked No. 22 In Early Top-25 Poll
BOULDER – While it is not yet clear exactly what the 2021 lacrosse season will look like, one thing is certain: Colorado's women's team will be one of the top teams in the nation. The Buffs are ranked No. 22 in US Lacrosse Magazine's early top-25 poll, released this week.
CU was 3-2 in 2020 before the pandemic cut the season short. The Buffs' two losses came on the road to teams that finished the year ranked in the top 12, and they wrapped up the season with back-to-back convincing wins, topping Oregon 21-5 and Coastal Carolina 19-8 in Boulder in early March.
Ten of the team's 12 starters are returning in 2021, including the team's top five scorers and All-American goalie Julia Lisella. The senior from Littleton opted to return for a sixth season when given an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic. She was named first-team All-America as a redshirt sophomore in 2018 when she had a .503 save percentage and 9.34 goals against average. She has continued to build off that success the past two years with a .473 save percentage since her All-American campaign.
In front of her on defense, four out of five starters are back, including seniors Macaul Mellor, Anna Collawn and Eliza Cahill, along with junior Sabrina Robbins. This experience group combined for 18 caused turnovers in five games last season. Elinor Wolf is the lone graduate from last year's defenders.
In the midfield, juniors Liz Phillips and Kate Burnside are both returning, though the team must replace Jen Mistretta. Phillips had seven goals as a freshman in 2019 before emerging as one of the team's top threats with four goals and five assists in the shortened 2020 season. Burnside made big strides in the draw circle as a sophomore, winning 34 draw controls and helping give the Buffs a 68-58 advantage in draws in five games. She also had three goals and two assists. Mistretta's team-leading seven assists will need to be replaced.
The attack is CU's most experienced group as Charlie Rudy, Chloe Willard and Sadie Grozier are all returning. The team's three leading scorers last year combined for 40 goals and 12 assists in just five games. Rudy has 46 career goals, including 20 in just five games last year. She was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week on March 9, the final weekend of the season, after 12 goals vs. Oregon and Coastal Carolina, including tying the school record with eight in the final game of the year. Grozier has 68 career goals and she and Willard each had 10 in 2020. Junior Zoe Lawless emerged as a threat off the bench with nine goals in five games last spring.
Head coach Ann Elliott Whidden announced the addition of 10 freshman over the summer. Several of them will compete for playing time, as well as Dartmouth graduate transfer Kate White, who will help fill the void of losing Wolf on defense. White helped the Big Green to a 5-0 start and No. 9 ranking this past spring and has started 23 career games.
Whidden is entering her eighth season at CU and has coached every game in program history. The Buffs have a 79-40 (.664) mark under her and have advanced to the past three NCAA Tournaments. She was named MPSF Coach of the Year in 2017 and Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2018, the inaugural season of lacrosse in the conference.