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Focused Buffaloes Look Forward To 2022 Season

Feb 9, 2022
Aine Williams returns for another season with the Buffs

BOULDER – The 2022 season is just days from starting and Colorado lacrosse coach Ann Elliott Whidden is happy about where her team is as the first game approaches Friday, February 11, against Louisville.
"This is a focused group that is committed to working hard every day and is trying to get better and is playing for each other," she said. "We learned a lot of things about where we're at against a really good team from our scrimmage against Northwestern. We know what we need to do to get ready to play and to compete."
One of the biggest questions surrounding the team could be about the goalkeeper position. In Colorado's eight seasons as an NCAA program, the Buffaloes have had two starting goalies: Paige Soenkson (2014-17) and Julia Lisella (2018-21). Now entering the ninth season, that position is up for grabs and Whidden says it has been a competition between all three goalkeepers on CU's roster: sophomore Danielle Heintz, junior Grace Donnelly and senior Molly Galloway.
"It's been exactly that, a competition," Whidden said. "It's been really neat because the three of them push each and challenge each other every day. All three of them want to play. It's going to be a tough decision for us."
Something that won't be tough for Whidden and her staff will be figuring out her offense as the top scorers, including Sadie Grozier, a fifth-year athlete, return to the lineup.  Grozier played and started in all but one game for the Buffs in 2021 and scored 39 goals and added 13 assists to lead CU with 52 points. Charlie Rudy led the Buffs last season with 45 goals despite missing the final two contests due to injury.
During the offseason, Whidden added another fifth-year attacker, Sam McGee. McGee played four seasons at Saint Joseph's and is enrolled in graduate school. She played in 49 games for the Hawks and scored 85 goals and added 31 assists for 116 points.
The Buffs also bring back three other fifth-year players on defense, Devon Bayer, Macaul Mellor and Aine Williams. The experiences that these five athletes have with that extra time, bring something extra to the Buffs.
"We're a group that has the experience, we just have to go out there and put that into action," Whidden said. "They've grown up in so many different ways here on the field off the field throughout their time here."
Freshmen are always looking to make an impact on the team and are vying for a spot in the line-up. This year is no different with the six freshmen who joined the Buffaloes in August.
"Our freshmen have gotten some good experience, from the fall and in this last month, and they have shown they are ready to compete at this level," Whidden said. "They are excited about competing. They are responding to the challenge. It's a really fun practice atmosphere for us."
The Buffs have 16 games scheduled this season and nine of those will be played at Kittredge Field. In fact, four of the first five games will be played at home for CU.
"There are some huge benefits for us in terms of limited distractions when we are on the road, being together and the bonding," Whidden explained. "But everybody likes to play at home and we like to play here in Boulder. So for us to be able to start this season at home, which we haven't necessarily been able to do the last four or so years, and have a good quality amount of time at home is really exciting for us. I think our players are excited just to play; they're excited to be back in some sort of normalcy, although we know any day could cause anything or a cancellation here, they're just being back in it this year and ready to compete."
The first game this season is against Louisville, which Colorado opened the season against in 2021. After the slow start in 2021, the Buffaloes know that cannot be the case this year.
"We're excited to play good teams that compete at high levels in their conferences and are competitive for us," Whidden said. "I don't think we're too focused on exactly who we're playing. I think we're focused on getting off to a better start than we got off to last year.
"We know we struggled, we know we could have done a better job. We feel like we're a little more experienced this year. And hopefully, with everything we've done in practice and getting that first scrimmage out there, we're going to be more prepared than we were last season."
After the Buffaloes make it through the first five games, they will start Pac-12 Conference play, which Colorado was picked to finish second in by the league coaches. The conference has continued to get better each year and Whidden thinks this year that trend will continue.
"I think the Pac-12 is going to be a strong conference throughout," she said. "We were excited about it last year but with Covid, it was challenging. Schools had different restrictions in terms of practice. But it helped us grow in many ways and I think everyone is off to a good start getting back after it.
 "Stanford is going to be a strong team," Whidden continued. "They have a great freshmen class that came in. They have a great sophomore class where some of them redshirted, so they're going to be strong throughout. USC and Arizona State are two teams that we battled hard against and split; those games are going to be great again. And then Oregon and Cal, I think, really had pretty good seasons, although maybe the records didn't show it. Oregon faced a lot of Covid issues. But they were strong in a lot of their games and competed in our conference; they are always a tough battle and they're a tough battle in Eugene. I think Cal is a really good team that was playing really well, at the end of the season, and very easily could have finished that season with four strong wins."
The first step to starting the season off on the right note will be against the Louisville Cardinals this Friday at 3 p.m. Admission is free. This is the season opener for both, who will be meeting for the second time. The other time was the 2021 season opener in Louisville where the Cardinals came away with a 12-9 victory.
This year the Buffaloes will be looking their own home field advantage; something Kittredge Field is known for since CU is 41-11 (.789) there.
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