Buffs Enter the Home Stretch
BOULDER—Colorado lacrosse is back in action this weekend, hosting a pair of ranked opponents. The Buffaloes welcome in No. 17 Southern California on Friday (4 p.m. MT) and No. 23 Arizona State on Sunday (Noon).
Colorado (9-3, 4-3 Pac-12) was idle last weekend after splitting its trip to Northern California. CU scored 26 goals in the two-game swing, including its second 17-point effort of the season against Cal.
The Buffs are currently fourth in the Pac-12 with three games left to play in the conference season. This weekend gives Colorado a chance to climb up the standings, with USC and ASU sitting ahead of the Buffs.
"Every one of our remaining Pac-12 games is important," head coach Ann Elliott Whidden explained. "If we want to finish with an opportunity to get a bye, we have to win these next three games. If we want to play in May we have to be successful down this last stretch in the conference and then our finale at Denver."
Colorado will be out for redemption on Friday and Sunday. Both USC and ASU got the upper hand in the team's first meetings on the road. The Buffs' offense struggled in both games, getting outscored 31-13 in the two games.
CU has been able to turn things around since that mid-March slump, winning four of its last five contests. Fifth-year seniors Sadie Grozier and Sam McGee have been key offensive contributors in the last five games. Grozier has tallied 19 points (16 G, 3 A), while McGee is right behind her with 16 points (15 G, 1 A) over the stretch. Seniors Charlie Rudy and Chloe Willard have also pitched in with 14 points (9 G, 5 A) and 11 points (7 G, 4 A), respectively.
"This is a group that is talented in different spots," Elliott Whidden added. "We complement each outer well. Our midfielders have been playing well on the offensive end and we play with five strong attackers. We have to continue to be confident in ourselves out there. We have a lot of people that can contribute in different ways. We've played a couple of tough games where we've struggled on that end of the field, but I think when they play confident and trust each other, anybody can have a great day."
Junior goalie Grace Donnelly has been superb in her starting role, replacing four-year starter Julia Lisella. Donnelly made a season-high 17 saves last weekend at Stanford and leads the Pac-12 with 9.42 saves per game this season. The first-year starter also leads the Pac-12 in save percentage (.452) and is second in the conference in goals-against average (12.03).
"I think Grace has done a great job for us stepping in in that role," Elliott Widden continued. "She's been coming up big for us in a lot of games, especially down the stretch and in Pac-12 play. She's been big for us early on in games when we need that confidence boost to make those stops.
USC (9-3, 5-2 Pac-12) had won three straight before falling to then No. 22 Stanford last Sunday, 23-17. The Trojans have the 11th highest-scoring offense in the nation, averaging 16.00 goals per game. USC has yet to score less than 11 goals in a game this season.
ASU (7-6, 5-2 Pac-12) has won three consecutive games, including a pair of wins over then No. 14 Rutgers and No. 22 Stanford. The Sun Devils boast a strong ground game, leading the Pac-12 with 18.85 ground balls per game. They are also second in the conference with a .472 shot percentage.
Friday's game will be streamed on Pac-12 Insider. The first 100 students in attendance will receive CU lacrosse bucket hats.
Former CU tight end Justin Adams will have the play-by-play call on the Pac-12 Network on Sunday. The Buffaloes will be participating in Headstrong Hair Havoc, sporting crazy hairstyles. It's also Chip's Kids Club day, presented by Children's Hospital Colorado. There will be various activities set up throughout the game.