BOULDER – Hayley Hughes lit a spark for the University of Colorado soccer team, pushing the Buffaloes past the Oregon Ducks 1-0 at Prentup Field on Sunday.
After a scoreless first half, the Buffs and Ducks fought to gain the upper hand. Having guarded one of Oregon’s best players, Bri Pugh, the majority of the game, Hughes shined both on defense and the attack. With freshman standout Brie Hooks, who has tied for a team high seven goals this season, out of the lineup, Hughes helped pick up the pace on the offensive side of the ball.
Hughes led the team with four shots, all on goal. In the 63rd minute, Hughes got the ball from 40 yards out, and didn’t waste any time blasting the ball toward the net and into the right corner for her first goal of the season.
“Hayley spent half of the season last year as a striker so we know she’s dangerous going forward,” CU head coach Danny Sanchez said. “It was just a great shot, their goal keeper Abby Steele is a great goal keeper. I feel she’s one of the top goal keepers in the league and to beat her today, we needed something special and that was a special shot from Hayley.”
With continued defensive pressure, the Buffs’ 1-0 lead would hold through regulation to give the Buffs their 10th win of the season. The win was the Buffs’ first over the Ducks in four meetings. The Buffs (10-2 overall, 2-1 Pac-12 Conference) have recorded back-to-back conference wins for the second time since joining the Pac-12, with the previous consecutive wins coming at USC and Arizona last season.
Oregon falls to 2-6-3, 0-2-1 Pac-12, with all of their defeats being determined by a single goal.
“All twelve teams (in the conference) are quality, and I think it’s maybe more of a situation where Oregon is desperate for result with where their season is going and that’s a dangerous team.” Sanchez said. “You can see the dangerous players that they have. I’m really pleased with how we came out, both halves. I felt the first twenty minutes of the game and the first twenty minutes of the second half were very good. And then at the end of the day … we defended great. They have dangerous players. So I’m just really pleased to get the result and to get a shut out.”
Though Oregon outshot Colorado 15-13 (including a nine to five differential in the second half), the Buffs were consistently more on target, hitting nine to Oregon’s four on goal.
The game was also a battle of two outstanding goal keepers, who combined for a total of 12 saves. Oregon’s Abby Steele leads the conference in saves and ranks in Oregon’s all-time top four in shutouts, wins and saves. Annie Brunner continues to have the best season of her career at Colorado. She currently ranks in the conference’s top five in shutouts and goals-against average.
With Sunday’s victory, Brunner becomes one of just four CU keepers to record at least 10 wins in a single season. For the second straight season, Brunner has shutout at least seven opponents (joining 2003 Big 12 Championship team member Jessica Keller as the only Buffs to have had back-to-back seasons with at least seven shutouts each year).
“I think at the end of the day it was just a good hard fought Pac-12 game,” Sanchez said. “I thought both goal keepers were very good. I thought Brunner was rock solid today dealing with those set pieces and a lot of corner kicks late when Oregon was pushing numbers. I thought it was a good hard fought game.”
The game began with Oregon keeping pressure in Buffs’ territory, but not being able to get any good looks at the net or retain possession for long.
Though Colorado and Oregon State had scored all three of their goals in the first 14 minutes on Friday, it wasn’t until the 14th minute on Sunday that a team was able to take a shot. A Bianca Jones free kick was sent over the wall, where Olivia Pappalardo was able to get her head on the ball, though she couldn’t get a shot. Darcy Jerman was ready for the rebound, but sent the ball just high. The Buffs continued on the attack, with Hughes, Jerman and Madison Krauser all making Steele work for saves in just over a one minute span.
Nineteen minutes into the first half, Oregon was finally able to get their first shot off, though Pugh was off her mark. The Buffs got back-to-back looks at the net in the following minutes, with Anne Stuller sending a free kick just over the post in the 22nd minute.
The Ducks responded with three consecutive shots of their own. Maryn Beutler and Lilly Archer were both blocked by the strong CU defense. Oregon continued to press the Buffs’ net, but Pugh once again shot wide.
The Buffs would only get one more opportunity before halftime. With under seven minutes remaining, they took a corner kick. Though no Buff got the first ball, Paxton was able to take it back and edge to the left side, but was blocked.
Oregon caused a stir in front of the net in the final three minutes of the first half. Ryann Davie got to the net, but shot the ball high. Following the Ducks’ corner kick, Riley Smith was right at the net, but got blocked, keeping the game scoreless at the break.
The opening of the second half was full of action. The Ducks and Buffs would trade off two shots apiece in the first nine minutes. For CU, Krauser was blocked in the 47th and Hughes sent a deep shot at Steele in the 51st. In the 48th and 54th minutes, Oregon’s Archer and Pugh both made Brunner work for saves.
In the 63rd minute, Hughes took an amazing shot from deep to put the Buffs up 1-0.
“The ball just kind of popped out, I was at the top of the box and it just happened to hit me,” Hughes said. “I chested it and it just fell perfectly to my feet and not I’m going to say I was aiming for the top corner, but you know, I kind of just got a good strike on it and it just bent kind of into that corner away from the keeper. I’m really pumped about it. It’s my first goal this season.”
The Buffs kept the pressure high following Hughes’ goal. CU and Oregon traded off shots in the following six minutes, with Alyssa Herwatt getting the ball from the right and taking a close range shot that Steele had to hop on for the save. The Buffs backline had a few close calls in the 71st minute. First, Beutler shot the ball to the far post, forcing Brunner to dive for the save. The ball was deflected off Brunner’s fingertips and Ashlee Schulz came in for the rebound at the left post, but hit the ball just wide.
“That’s a really athletic team,” Hughes said. “They’re good players. It’s great to get up 1-0, but then you know the attack is going to be after you. I think us four in the back, obviously just the whole team had to stay really compact and just work off each other and I think we had great coverage. I’m just really proud of everyone. We defended as a team.”
The Buffs continued to focus on defense, allowing just three more shots in the final 16 minutes.
“It‘s awesome,” Brunner said of the win. “I feel like we finally have the grit. We were in all these games last year, but we finally have the grit to get it through and win.”
The Buffs leave the Centennial State for the first time this season for a three game road trip. CU takes on Washington State at 2 p.m. MT on Friday, Oct. 11 and faces Washington at noon MT on Sunday, Oct. 13. The Buffs return to Berkeley, Calif. to take on California (where they earned their first victory in the Pac-12) at 1:30 p.m. MT on Friday, Oct. 18 before returning for their final two home games.