Buffs Step Up in Win Over No. 17 ASU
BOULDER—The Colorado Buffaloes rose to the occasion in a must-win situation against No. 17 Arizona State on Sunday. Sophomore Alyssa Duke notched her first collegiate goal and freshman Shyra James added insurance, giving the Buffs a 2-0 decision at Prentup Field.
"It was a big win today for the Buffs," head coach Danny Sanchez explained after the match. "You can see the quality of Arizona State. Their attacking players are deployed all over the field. We felt that we had to run at them and sub a lot. I thought that was the key to the match. When we brought players off the bench, the level [of play] didn't drop and in some cases, it actually went up. This puts us in a very good position to have everything to play for next weekend against Utah."
One of the key subs on Sunday was Duke. She appeared in just her fifth match of the season and had only played 54 minutes before Sunday. Duke was brought in in the 30th minute and scored five minutes later, finishing the first half with 15 minutes on the pitch.
"We've had some injuries throughout the season," Duke noted. "Different people have had to step up and I was excited that this weekend was one of my opportunities to step up. Everyone's been playing well, filling into their roles, no matter what that role is."
CU had pushed the pace of play early in the first half, totaling six shots in the first 28 minutes but had nothing to show for it. A corner chance in the 34th minute was the break the Buffs needed, allowing CU to take full control of the match midway through the first half.
James put the cherry on top for the Buffs early in the second half, netting her fifth goal of the season in the 48th minute. CU goalkeeper Dani Hansen finished with five saves to finish off her seventh shutout of the year.
Colorado (8-5-2, 4-4-2 Pac-12) pulls even with Arizona State (8-4-2, 4-3-2 Pac-12) with 14 points in the standings.
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs offense got started early in the contest. Kayleigh Webb fed James from the midfield line and James tried to one-touch the ball past an aggressive Giulia Cascapera who came well out of her net for the Sun Devils.
The Buffs went 10 minutes between shots, with James getting another opportunity in the 13th minute. Haileigh Adams made a run down the left sideline and played a cross to the center of the penalty box. James got a head to the ball from eight yards out, popping it onto the top of the net.
CU's biggest push of the match got started in the 21st minute with Tessa Barton flicking a shot on net that was deflected high by Cascapera, giving CU its first of three corner chances in a row. Webb tried to put a shot through traffic in the 23rd minute that led to James getting a chance on right on the doorstep. She one-timed a shot that needed a diving stop on the right post to keep the game scoreless for the moment.
"We really played on the front foot and played with a lot of energy," Sanchez added. "I told the team we are not going to reinvent who we are 15 games into the season, but I like who we are right now. I like how we played this weekend, shutting out two high-powered offensive teams."
Duke ran up to the offensive zone on CU's corner opportunity in the 34th minute. Senior Shanade Hopcroft placed the ball perfectly atop Duke's head and the 6-2 defender finished off the set piece to give the Buffs the 1-0 advantage.
"It was super exciting," Duke recalled. "The ball just came perfectly to my head. It was my first collegiate goal and I think it came in a really exciting game."
Colorado capitalized on its first chance in the second half. Webb sent in a cross that was deflected off an ASU defender and found its way to James on the far post. James played the ball down and then sent a cross-body shot into the far corner of the net to put CU up 2-0 just three minutes into the second half.
The Buffs defended the lead for the remainder of the half, allowing CU to usher in fresh subs and keep the energy level above par for the rest of the day.
Hansen had to make two saves in the final period, with the final chance coming in the 70th minute.
Colorado controlled the ball for the better portion of the final 10 minutes. Senior Katie Joella had a chance for a third goal in the 84th minute and James got another look in the final seconds of the day.
BY THE NUMBERS
UP NEXT: The Buffs will ride their momentum into their final regular-season game next Friday, Apr. 16, against Utah.
NOTES: The Buffs now have a five-game unbeaten streak against ASU (4-0-1)…James now leads the team in goals (5) and points (11)…Hopcroft's assist was her first of the season…Webb's assist was her second of the season…CU now has scored eight of its 16 goals off set pieces…Hansen adds to her saves total now with 87 on the season.