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Buffs Buckling Up for Final Stretch

Mar 25, 2021

BOULDER — The Colorado soccer hosts Washington State (1 p.m. MT) on Saturday, kicking off the final stretch of the condensed regular season.

Colorado (6-3-1, 2-2-1 Pac-12) closes the season with four of its last six matches to be played at Prentup Field. The Buffaloes take on WSU this weekend and then head to Oregon for a pair of matches, before closing the season with three straight at home. 

CU enters this weekend with a 15 RPI, jousting for positioning inside the loaded Pac-12 Conference. The NCAA previously announced its championship tournament field would be cut from 64 to 48 this season. The NCAA released on Thursday the news that all 48 teams will travel to North Carolina to compete in this year's tournament. 

Under normal circumstances, the urgency heading into the 11th match of the season wouldn't necessarily carry the weight that it does going into this weekend. CU's remaining games are all within the Pac-12, making the remaining points crucial as teams battle to be included in the shrunken NCAA field. 

"Every Pac-12 game is like an NCAA Tournament game this season because of the limited at-large spots available," head coach Danny Sanchez said about the final portion of the season. "We have to approach it like that. Every year they are [Pac-12 games] important, but this year it's magnified. We're excited to have four of the last six at home and we have put ourselves in a good position so far. We expect NCAA Tournament atmosphere and intensity the rest of the season." 

The Buffs are coming off a 2-0 week, picking up wins over then-No. 14 USC and at Utah. Freshman Shyra James recorded both game-winning goals, helping her earn Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. CU's 1-0 win at Utah was the team's fifth shutout of the season, and the fourth for goalkeeper Dani Hansen.   

Washington State (4-1-1, 0-0-1 Pac-12) got back into action last week with a 2-1 loss to then-No. 23 Washington. The Cougars had their previous four matches canceled due to COVID concerns. WSU was the surprise team in the NCAA Tournament last season, making it to the Final Four of the College Cup. The Cougars ended 2019 ranked No. 4 and started the season ranked No. 25. 

"They're [WSU] like everyone else right now, they have to get results," coach Sanchez added. "They were in the College Cup last year and were off to a good start They have played fewer games than everybody because they missed four games, but we know a single game weekend is going to be like an NCAA Tournament game. They are a very dynamic team that is coached well and very experienced in the back. They have a very good attack. They are a very hungry team. We know it's going to be a great game."

Justin Adams, a former tight end for the Buffs, will be on the call for the Pac-12 Network.