Buffs Hit the Pitch, Marking Start of 2021 Season
BOULDER— Head coach Danny Sanchez and the Colorado Buffaloes returned to training on Tuesday, officially kicking off the 2021 season.
The Buffs returned to the pitch for a pair of practices just 98 days after the team's NCAA Tournament match, a much quicker turnaround than the previous season's wait.
"We are just so excited to have the ball at our feet again," senior Kayleigh Webb commented after the day's first training session. "We had a good month and a half off [after the tournament]. We came back here, and everyone just wanted to play again. It was good to relax and take some time off, but when we came back everyone was ready to get after it."
The first day was brought a sense of normalcy to the program, something that was missing during all of the 2020* season.
"I think I speak for every college coach in the country in that just to get back to training and kind of a normal rhythm, the first-day jitters for new players, being able to get through the fitness tests and play some big field stuff, it's just exciting," Sanchez explained. "We're just appreciative. We feel fortunate to have this opportunity."
CU returns a bulk of the talent from last season's NCAA Tournament appearance. The Buffs return 16 of their 17 goals scored by five different players returning this season. Sophomore Shyra James tops the list of returning scorers, with her team-best 11 points (5 G, 1 A). Senior Hannah Sharts, a First Team All-Pac-12 selection a season ago, returns to the backline with her nine points (4 G, 1 A). Shanade Hopcroft returns for a second go at a senior season as the only other Buff with multiple goals (3) in the spring.
The Buffs will have plenty of new faces running around Prentup Field this season as well, mixing in seven newcomers. The team will have six new freshmen and Utah transfer Hailey Stodden.
"I thought the newcomers did well [today]," Sanchez added. "It's tough. They've been here for a few weeks, so they've been able to get acclimated. At the end of the day, it's their first college practice for most of them. I thought they all did really well. Having a couple of transfers in Mackenzie Davis [freshman transfer] and Stodden, they just melted right in with the team."
One question that got answered last season for Coach Sanchez and Co., was who would fill the role of goalkeeper? Junior Dani Hansen stepped into the position and never relinquished control. All she did was lead the Pac-12 in saves (92), save percentage (.876) and saves per game (5.75). The Third Team All-Pac-12 selection will be the day-one starter for the Buffs, with freshman Bella Grust serving as the team's No. 2.
"There were a lot of question marks last season," Sanchez recalled. "Dani did a great job for us last year and she's continued to work hard. We're really excited to bring Bella into the fold. She's super talented, has tons of upside and has a great attitude. We know she has a great future with Buffs, so we're excited with where we're at with the goalkeeping corps."
The Buffs will train for the next two weeks, leading up to Colorado's exhibition match at Air Force on Aug. 14.