QUICKLY: After one of its most impressive seasons to date, the University of Colorado soccer team has kept its season alive with a trip to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship. The tournament is the Buffaloes’ first since 2008. The Buffs (12-6-2 overall, 4-5-2 Pac-12) will face in-state rival and No. 14 ranked Denver in the first round of play. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16 at DU’s CIBER Field.

COLORADO VS. DENVER: The teams’ match-up earlier this season brought their series to an 8-8-1 tie. The Buffs have lost four straight to the Pioneers. In each of the last two seasons, DU has ended CU’s record-breaking season-opening unbeaten streaks. The Buffs’ last win over the Pioneers was a 1-0 double overtime victory at Prentup in 2009. CU is 1-1 when facing a ranked Denver team, with the Buffs shutting out the No. 9 Pioneers 3-0 in Denver in 2003 and Colorado falling 0-3 earlier this season to then-No. 16 Denver. The Buffs are 2-5-1 at CIBER Field, with their last victory there a 2-0 win in 2007. This will be the teams’ second meeting in the NCAA Tournament. In 2006 (when the Buffs had their best tournament finish with a trip to the Sweet 16), the Buffs defeated the Pioneers 2-1 in the Round of 32.

Denver enters the tournament as one of 16 seeded teams, ranking as a No. 4 seed. The Pioneers concluded the regular season with an impressive 18-1-1 overall, 7-0 Summit League record, including a perfect 9-0 mark at home. DU and CU shared competition with six of the same non-conference opponents, and the Pioneers’ lone loss and tie both came at the hands of non-conference opponents. In back-to-back games, Denver tied TCU 1-1 and fell to Nebraska (currently ranked No. 10 and a No. 2 seed in the tournament). After that, the Pioneers won 11 straight on their way to the conference title. Seniors Kristen Hamilton and Nicholette DiGiacomo lead the Pioneers with impressive numbers. According to stats compiled by CollegeSoccer360.com, the duo has helped Denver become one of 16 Division I teams (12 that are in the tournament) with multiple double-digit scorers. Per the site, Hamilton is also one of 10 players to record the prestigious double-double this season, netting 14 goals and contributing 12 assists. DiGiacomo has also had great success this season with 13 goals and eight assists.     

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LAST WEEK: The Buffs concluded the regular season with a 2-1 double overtime loss to Utah in Salt Lake City. After over 70 minutes of scoreless action, the Buffaloes grabbed the lead off an own goal at 70:44. After having an opportunity in front of the net just minutes earlier (though she was eventually called offsides), Tori Cooper, however inadvertently, helped the Buffs to a 1-0 lead. In a one-on-one situation in the right corner, Cooper slid the ball towards the net to beat her defender. Utah keeper Lindsey Luke came out to meet the ball, as a Utah defender got in front to also try to clear the ball. From six yards out, the defender wasn’t able to get the ball out, and took it into the net for an own goal. CU’s lead would hold until the closing minutes of regulation, as Utah tied things up in the 87th minute off a controversially called corner kick. The Utes claimed the victory off a deflection with less than seven minutes remaining in the second overtime to stay undefeated in home play this season. The loss was the Buffs’ first in overtime this season. CU concluded the regular season with a 2-1-2 record in overtime play. The Buffs are also now 6-5-1 this season when entering halftime in a scoreless tie. Utah just edged CU in shots (12 to eight) and shots on goal (six to four). Anne Stuller led the Buffs with five shots, three of which were on goal.

TOURNEY TIME: The 2013 NCAA Tournament will be the Buffs’ seventh tournament and the Pioneer’s eighth. The Buffs made six consecutive tournaments from 2003-08, posting a 4-6-1 record. Their best performance was a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2006. Denver has made back-to-back tournaments, with their best performance a trip to the Sweet 16 last season (after knocking off No. 4 seeded Maryland in the Round of 32).  

2003 was a season of firsts for the Buffs. On Sept. 8, the Buffs earned their first national ranking, coming in at No. 16 in the NSCAA poll after defeating No. 9 Denver 3-0 the prior week. CU peaked at a No. 5 ranking during the Big 12 Conference Tournament. The Buffs broke 14 records that season on their way to the Big 12 regular season title. Fran Munnelly was named the conference’s Player of the Year, Bill Hempen the Coach of the Year and Katie Griffin the Rookie of the Year. In their first NCAA Tournament, the No. 11 Buffs fell 2-0 to BYU.

2004: After an impressive 2003 campaign, the Buffs entered 2004 ranked No. 23 in their first four games. CU went on two separate six-game winning streaks on their way to 15 wins on the season. After a 3-1 loss to No. 10 Texas A&M in the Big 12 Tournament, the Buffs bounced back in their second consecutive NCAA appearance. CU defeated Utah 3-0 in the first round before falling 3-0 to No. 6 Portland in the Round of 32.

2005: The Buffs once again impressed on the national stage in 2005. CU played seven games as a ranked team and advanced to its first Big 12 Championship game, where it fell to No. 10 Texas A&M. Entering the conference tourney, CU led the conference defensively, with a Big 12 play-best goals allowed (eight), goals-against average (0.78) and shutouts (six). CU advanced to the second round of NCAAs after a 4-3 shootout win over UC Riverside. The Buffs fell in the Round of 32 to No. 4 UCLA, an eventual College Cup finalist.

2006: With the help of Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Nikki Marshall (who set 21 class records in her debut season), the Buffs had another historic season. Upsets over two top 15 teams helped lead the Buffs to their second straight Big 12 championship game and their best ever postseason finish (a record that holds to this day). The Buffs beat in-state rivals Colorado College and Denver 2-1 in the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney before falling to No. 1 ranked Notre Dame 3-0 in the Sweet 16.

2007: Ten shutouts helped a strong CU squad to its sixth consecutive 10-win season. The Buffs advanced to the second round of NCAA Tournament the fourth consecutive year. In the opening round, the Buffs defeated Hawaii 2-0. In the next, No. 3 Portland again ended CU’s season, handing the Buffs a 1-0 defeat.

2008: CU once again had a record-breaking season in 2008, taking a program-best 472 shots and 191 shots on goal. CU recorded 14 wins in a single season for just the third time in program history and placed a record eight Buffs on All-Big 12 teams. In the first round of NCAA play, the No. 15 Buffs faltered in a 1-0 loss to South Dakota State. 

CONFERENCE HONORS: Three members of the CU soccer team earned spots on All-Pac-12 Conference teams. Seniors Anne Stuller and Lizzy Herzl were named second-team and honorable mention, respectively, while newcomer Brie Hooks was selected to the Freshman Team. This is the first all-conference honor for each. For the second straight year, Stuller and Herzl were also honored as College Sports Madness All-Pac-12 Conference Second Team selections.

SHOOT 'EM UP ANNE: Anne Stuller has had her best season with the Buffs in what has already been an impressive four-year career. In her final season, Stuller has set single season records for shots (86) and shots on goal (50). With 36 shots on goal last season, Stuller is the only Buff to rank in the top six of that category twice. With 23 points, off eight goals and seven assists, this season, she is just six shy of her total from her first three seasons combined. Her points and assist totals as a senior also rank in the top three on the CU single season list. Her eight goals tie her total from last season, ranking in the top eight in a single season. She holds the all-time top spot for points, assists and shots by a senior at CU and is tied for second in goals by a senior. Stuller ended the regular season ranking in the Pac-12’s top seven in shots, points, assists and goals. Stuller also ranks in the top five in the CU career record books in points, goals, game-winning goals, shots and shots on goal. She ties for seventh most career assists (with seven of her 10 assists coming in her final season).

HERZL STANDS ABOVE THE CROWD: Lizzy Herzl has started all 20 games and played a team-high 1,845 minutes her senior season. As part of the Buffs’ strong defense, she has helped the squad to its second consecutive eight shutout season, including a record-breaking five to start the 2013 campaign. Herzl earned a spot on the Omni Hotels Colorado Women’s Soccer Classic All-Tournament Team earlier this season when she helped the Buffs to a 4-0 win over Stony Brook and a 3-1 victory over UNLV. Herzl has also taken 10 shots this season, with five on target. Herzl earned back-to-back Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors in 2010 when her game-winning goals lifted the Buffs over No. 12 UCLA in double overtime and No. 6 Texas A&M in overtime (marking the Buffs’ first regular season win over the Aggies). She is only one of four Buffs to score at least two-game-winning goals in overtime play.

HOOKS IN THE BOOKS: Brie Hooks has been a standout player in her debut season at Colorado. In her first collegiate game, Hooks helped the Buffs to a 3-0 shutout of Northern Colorado behind a two-goal performance. Hooks is the first Buff in program history to score two goals in her Colorado debut. In CU’s freshman offensive record books, she ranks third with eight goals and fourth with 18 points. Her 38 shots ties for 10th. Her eight goals also tie for eighth most in a single season at CU (she and Stuller have each netted eight goals this season, marking just the third year that two Buffs have scored at least eight goals apiece). Her four game-winning goals tie for fourth best in a single season at CU and also tie for fourth best in the conference. Her goal and point totals also rank in the conference’s regular season top 10.

HUGHES’ SUCCESS ON AND OFF THE PITCH: Co-captain Hayley Hughes recently received her fifth academic honor, earning Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District VII Second Team honors for the 2013-14 season. Hughes, who majors in finance in the CU Leeds School of Business, with a minor in economics and a certificate in quantitative finance, holds a 3.93 cumulative grade-point average. In her final season, Hughes has been an important part of the Buffs’ defense, starting all 20 games and helping the Buffs to eight shutouts, including five to open the season. Hughes has also lit a spark for the offense, netting the game-winner in the Buffs’ 1-0 victory over Oregon to help the squad to its first ever back-to-back Pac-12 home wins. In four seasons, Hughes has played in all but one of the Buffs’ games, helping her rank in CU’s all-time top 10 in minutes and games started and the top 12 in games played. 

STRONG LEADERSHIP: In his second year at the helm, CU head coach Danny Sanchez has led the Buffs to his first NCAA Division I Tournament as a coach, though he is no stranger to tournament success. Sanchez led Denver’s Metro State to five DII Elite Eights, including two National Championships. As a player, Sanchez helped lead Connecticut to the 1989 Big East Championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. Sanchez has already recorded 20 wins at CU. It took him just 36 games to record this milestone, exactly 10 games quicker than his most recent predecessor. In his 22nd season at DU, head coach Jeff Hooker was named the Summit League’s Co-Coach of the Year (his ninth Coach of the Year title).

NSCAA: The Buffs have received votes in 10 of the 11 most recent NSCAA/Continental Tire Women’s Polls. CU is also one of eight Pac-12 teams in the top 10 of the Pacific Region poll, coming in at sixth. All of the top six teams are Pac-12 squads who have made the tournament. Though dropping a spot in each of the two most recent polls, Denver remains high in the rankings, rounding out the top 15.

STIFF COMPETITION: The Buffs have faced stiff competition this season and hold a 0-4-1 record against ranked opponents. CU will hope to further extend its season against a strong Denver squad. The Pioneers fell only once during the regular season, and earned the Summit League regular season and tournament titles. Senior Kristen Hamilton was named the MVP of the conference tournament and the Summit League’s Offensive Player of the Year. Classmate Nicholette DiGiacomo was recently named first-team All-Summit League. According to CollegeSoccer360.com, Denver has one of the best records over the past four seasons. DU’s senior class has 70 wins, which ties for fourth amongst Division I teams. DU’s juniors have 51 wins (tying for eighth) and sophomores have 35 wins (tying for sixth). Beyond an impressive offense (with 12 goal scorers), Denver also boasts a strong defense. The Pioneers have allowed just nine goals, posting 13 clean sheets.

BREAKING EXPECTATIONS: After back-to-back 11th place finishes in their first two seasons in the Pac-12 Conference, the Buffs were chosen to finish 10th in the 2013 Pac-12 Women’s Soccer Coaches Poll. The Buffs broke expectations this season, finishing tied for sixth in conference play, though at one point in the season, they were tied for second place. CU’s 38 total points throughout the season ranked fourth among Pac-12 teams. Colorado continued to prove its strength, becoming one of six Pac-12 members to make the NCAA Tournament.  

FIRST: This season marked a year of firsts for CU. After breaking program records earlier this season by shutting out their first five opponents and winning their first six games, the Buffs continued the trend by winning eight non-conference games for the first time in school history. The Buffs also earned their first Pac-12 home wins with victories over Oregon State and Oregon (CU’s first wins over both teams). The Buffs’ overtime victory at Washington was their first over the Huskies. CU’s win over USC marked the first time the Buffs have gotten two wins over a single Pac-12 Conference opponent (the Buffs beat the Trojans 1-0 in double overtime in Los Angeles last season).

ON THE ROAD: The Buffs never left the Centennial State during their non-conference schedule, playing all but one of their away games during Pac-12 play. CU played its final three games on the road, ending the regular season with a 1-4-2 away record. The Buffs were 3-1 this season at CIBER Field in Denver, picking up wins over Northern Colorado, Alabama and UT Martin in neutral site games. The Buffs’ lone loss of the non-conference portion of the season was to Denver, a game that was originally scheduled for Prentup Field, but was moved to Denver after the severe flooding that occurred in our city.