Geraghty, Hopcroft Seal Victory for the Buffs
BOULDER—Two unanswered goals from Libby Geraghty and Shanade Hopcroft helped keep Colorado's NCAA Tournament hopes alive on Friday.
The Buffaloes fell behind after allowing the first goal to Utah in the 23rd minute but drew back to even in the 25th minute off the foot of Geraghty. Hopcroft notched the game-winner in the 83rd minute to close out the 2-1 result.
"I couldn't be prouder of this team," head coach Danny Sanchez commented after the win. "Not because we won the game, but because the last few weeks we had no room for error. To battle and get these results that we had to have, against quality Pac-12 teams was just fantastic.
"To go down a goal today and still battle—it wasn't our best performance today but to keep battling and to see Libby Geraghty get a goal after all she's been through on Senior Day just warms my heart. Then Shanade was just quality at the end to put that in."
The match had a sense of Déjà vu after the Buffs found themselves trailing. Utah had won the previous two regular-season finales by 1-0, keeping CU out of the NCAA Tournament in 2018.
"If you look at every game we have with Utah at the end of the season it always seems like it comes down to needing to get a result," Sanchez explained. "It cost us a bit in 2018 when we didn't get the win. In 2019 it probably put us really on the bubble and we got in, but it made things nervous for Selection Day."
Colorado moves to 9-5-2 overall and 5-4-2 in the Pac-12. Utah's season closes at 4-9-3 overall and 3-6-2 in the conference.
HOW IT HAPPENED: The action started early with both sides looking to get an early score on the board.
Colorado spent enough time in the Utah defensive zone early in the match that Utah should have been charging rent. CU earned two corner opportunities and three throw-ins in the first seven minutes.
Tessa Barton tried to open the account for CU in the seventh minute. Hannah Sharts heaved a long throw-in into Shyra James. James directed the ball onto Barton, whose header just missed the crossbar.
CU continued to control the momentum into the 12th minute when Utah shifted gears. The Utes had back-to-back chances stymied by the Buffs' defense and then got dangerously close to scoring in the 13th minutes. Utah found the back of the net, but a late whistle came in and ruled the Utes to be offside, wiping the goal off the board.
Colorado goalkeeper Dani Hansen made the first of her three saves of the day in the 16th minute, stopping Brooklyn James who slipped past the CU backline. CU regrouped and won a corner kick in the 18th minute. Hopcroft sent the ball in and it bounced out to Adams who floated a shot that hit off the bottom of the crossbar and was cleared away by Utah.
The Utes capitalized in the 23rd minute off a cross from Courtney Talbot that went untouched through the CU penalty box. Eden Jacobsen was waiting 10 yards out and sent the ball cross net and past Hansen for the short-lived lead.
Just over 1:30 later Hopcroft fed Geraghty in from just past midfield. Geraghty slipped behind the defenders and was one-on-on with Utah's SJ Edwards. Geraghty hit a left-footed strike in stride and beat the charging Utah keeper for the equalizer.
"It [being able to contribute] means so much," Geraghty said. "You have no idea. It's been a long four years and I couldn't have asked for a better Senior Day. We needed that goal. The equalizer was important before halftime. Shanade played a perfect ball so I just had to get on the end of it. That was so exciting."
Both offenses slowed down in the second half, totaling just four shots apiece. The Utes picked up the first scoring chance of the second half in the 61st minute, forcing Hansen to make a save. James had CU's first good opportunity in the 69th minute, sending a long shot in on Edwards.
Hansen and Edwards both made two saves in the second half, with Edwards denying Barton in the 81st minute for the final save of the match.
A Utah foul in the 82nd minute set up the game-winner for the Buffs. Freshman Lawson Willis sent in the free-kick and the ball caromed off a Utah defender and bounced right out to Hopcroft. She was able to hit the ball in-stride, beating Edwards from 21 yards out on a one-timer to the near corner.
BY THE NUMBERS
UP NEXT: The Buffs will await the NCAA Tournament selections on Monday. The show will stream live on NCAA.com at 11 a.m. MT.
"In a normal year I'd feel really good [about tournament positioning]," Sanchez added. "If there were 16 more spots to be had. When you look at it there's so much uncertainty this year, but you look at our results in the league and look at our win over Denver, which is a very good result. We play in the toughest league in the country. Three of the four final four teams in 2019. At the end of it, I think everybody agrees the Pac-12 should get the most bids of anyone. If that's the case I feel good about our chances, but you just don't know."
QUOTABLE: "I think in all my four years, the best part was the people. We have a really good culture here. Every single year we've had such a good group of people and I've become so close with all of them. That's going to be the hardest part of seeing them three hours a day, six days a week." – Libby Geraghty
"As far as Libby, to get a goal on Senior Day—As I said, not everybody is privy to everything she's had to go through to get to this stage. The amount of work and surgery she's had to do. It's a testament to her and her family. Her commitment to the team, being a captain and a leader for us. We couldn't be happier, but I think at the end of the day, the win is the most important thing for her." – Danny Sanchez
NOTES: CU closes the regular season on a four-match unbeaten streak…CU swept the season series against Utah…CU's five Pac-12 wins are the most since 2018 (5-4-2)…Hopcroft became the first Buff to have a goal and an assist in the same match this season and first since Taylor Kornieck had a goal and assist against Northern Colorado in the 2019 NCAA Tournament…the team honored Katie Joella, Geraghty and team manager Cole Sanchez before the game for Senior Day…Geraghty a redshirt junior is not returning in the fall due to injuries throughout her career…Hopcroft now has eight points on the season (3 G, 2 A)…Geraghty has five points (2 G, 1 A)…Hansen has an even 90 saves on the season.