DENVER – The University of Colorado soccer team suffered its first loss of the season on Sunday, falling 3-0 to No. 16 Denver.
The game was originally scheduled to begin a five game homestand for the Buffaloes at Prentup Field, but flooding conditions throughout the county moved the game to DU’s CIBER Field at the University of Denver Soccer Stadium.
CU head coach Danny Sanchez said he was very appreciative to DU for playing host and working to make changes just a day before the game. He is also thankful to the CU administration, including Senior Woman Administrator Ceal Barry, Athletic Director Rick George and Chancellor Phil DiStefano for allowing the game to be played on Sunday.
“I think it was important for us to play the game,” Sanchez said. “We really appreciate what they did to make that happen. We’re also obviously cognizant of what’s going on in Boulder and all the issues that are not only affecting Boulder, but also all throughout Denver. Our thoughts go out to them as well.”
Though rain was intermittent throughout the game, Sanchez said weather wasn’t a big factor. He said there was a little bit of slipping and sliding, but overall the field help up well.
The game was the biggest of the Buffs’ season thus far, with both teams putting their 6-0 records to the test. Both schools were off to program best starts entering the game.
After record-breaking games last weekend at the DU Invitational at CIBER Field, the Buffs fall to 6-1. The 3-0 defeat marks the first time the Buffs were shut out this season and just the second time they allowed a goal. Their six wins and five shutouts to begin the season remain a program best. Though their streak was put to an end, their six game unbeaten streak ties for fifth best all-time, and the six game scoring streak ties for 10th. With two more non-conference games remaining this season, the Buffs are primed to set one of their best records, already winning six non-conference bouts for just the seventh time in program history.
Denver has allowed just three goals this season, while netting 16. The No. 16-ranked Pioneers improve their record start to 7-0.
The game remained tight until the closing minutes, with Denver just edging Colorado in shots (22 to 18) and shots on goal (8 to 7). Though allowing three goals, CU keeper Annie Brunner recorded a season-high five saves. Anne Stuller once again led the Buffs offensively, taking five shots, including a close shot that bounced off the post.
Denver’s freshman keeper Cassidy Rey continues to shine in the net, grabbing seven saves, including five clutch saves in the second half. Kristen Hamilton and Anna Willis were key to Denver’s game, combining for eight total shots and all of DU’s goals. Hamilton leads the Pioneers with six goals and five assists this season. With two goals in the game, she becomes DU’s leading goal scorer with 43.
Though the score would remain tied at 0-0 at halftime, with the Pioneers narrowly outshooting the Buffs eight to six, Denver would net its first goal in the 63rd minute to grab momentum for two more in the final 2:31.
Both teams came out on the attack in what would be a tight first half, with the Buffs and Pioneers trading shots in the first minute. Denver got a corner kick in the seventh minute, but couldn’t get a shot at the goal. It wasn’t until the 13th minute that the Buffs would return to the net, with Anne Stuller hitting one high.
CU wouldn’t allow a response until the 25th minute, with Shannen Johnson hitting one wide. The shot would spur both offenses, with Bianca Jones finding herself blocked just over two minutes later. Another two minutes made for another shot, with DU’s leading scorer Kristin Hamilton making Brunner work for her first save of the game. The Buffs responded once more, with Olivia Pappalardo having a shot blocked.
The Pioneers then went on a 4-0 shooting streak in just over a seven minute span, with two shots coming off corner kicks, but the Buffs’ defense came up big with two blocks and a save by Brunner during that span. In the final 2:30, Colorado took two more shots and a corner, but the game would head to halftime scoreless.
DU was hungry for the lead from the opening minutes in the second half. In the first three minutes, the Pioneers took three wide shots. The Buffs answered with three consecutive shots of their own in a five minute span, but two headers by Lizzy Herzl were saved and a shot by Madison Krauser was blocked.
The game would continue with back-and-forth play, with each team having spurts of shots. DU came back with a corner kick in the 57th minute that set up two shots, forcing Brunner to grab the save on the second. After another corner kick, the Pioneers got two more shots, this time first hitting the crossbar, and then getting blocked.
The Buffs got back on offense with a wide shot by Hayley Hughes followed by a Hooks shot saved by the keeper, but their pressure wouldn’t last long. In the 63rd minute, Nicholette Digiacomo sent one at Bunner. Less than one minute later, Hamilton beat two defenders to score from 12 yards out off a Willis assist.
The teams traded corners, but neither could convert. In the 71st minute, the Buffs came back with a vengeance. Stuller was just inches off the net with a shot at the crossbar, and just four seconds later, Hooks got the rebound, but Rey was there for the save. Stuller was at it again in the 77th minute, hitting the ball wide off her own corner. The Buffs kept the pressure on the Pioneers, not allowing a shot after their goal until the 80 minute mark, when Brooke Booth was blocked. Denver got another shot off a corner, but sent the ball high.
Denver’s Shelby Wesley got handed a yellow card in the 81st minute, helping set up another CU shooting spree. Stuller and Pappalardo both saw their shots blocked and Hooks was once again stopped by the keeper.
DU responded in the 88th, with Brooke Boothe getting blocked. Anna Willis took a corner kick, getting the ball to Hamilton who headed the ball to the far post. Under two minutes later, the pair connected for a third time to put the game out of reach. Willis crossed to Hamilton who was rushing up the left side and scored from 10 yards out. With just 19 seconds remaining in the game, Denver solidified their 3-0 victory.
“They were putting some pressure on us and they got that goal,” Sanchez said of the momentum DU gained after its first goal. “Then the game opened up. We had our best run of play after their goal for about 10 minutes. We had a few corner kicks, our best chance of the game, they made a great save. In the end in the last couple minutes, we pulled one of our backs and we got exposed in the back, which is going to happen. We had to take a chance at that point. Big picture, Denver played better than us today. They deserved to win, but I think we learned a lot about ourselves and we’re looking forward to the Omni Classic next weekend at Prentup.”
With 13 games remaining in the season, Sanchez said there’s still a lot to play for. But first, his top priority is hoping for drier conditions, not only for his team, but for the community of Boulder.
The Buffs play host to UNLV, Stony Brook and Northern Colorado next weekend for the Omni Hotels Colorado Women’s Soccer Classic. Play begins on Friday at 1:30 p.m. with UNC taking on UNLV. The Buffs take the field at 4 p.m. to face Stony Brook. The first 200 fans at that game will receive a FREE CU soccer mini ball.