DURHAM, N.H. – The University of Colorado lacrosse team battled back from a seven goal deficit, but fell short to New Hampshire here Sunday, with the Wildcats claiming a 14-11 victory.
The Buffaloes grabbed their first and only lead of the game in the first five minutes, but UNH would use an 8-1 run to grab a game-high seven goal lead twice in the first half. By halftime, CU managed to trim its deficit to four, down 10-6, and would pull within one in the first nine minutes of the second half.
CU outscored UNH five to four in the second half, but the late comeback wouldn’t be enough. In the final 21 minutes, the Wildcats scored all four of their final goals, while holding CU to just two.
“Today was another great opportunity for our program to play a well-coached, strong New Hampshire team,” CU head coach Ann Elliott said. “We were very excited about the opportunity. We came out and we got ourselves into a little bit of a hole, going down 9-2 and then 10-3, but our kids showed that they can fight back. They believe in themselves and were able to start to make a little run at the end of the first half, which gave us a little bit of confidence going into halftime and coming out in the second half.
I thought outside of the 15 minute stretch in the first half, we played hard and we played well. We were able to execute offensively. The trouble we had in those 15 minutes, not being able to take care of the ball really cost us. It was too big of a hole to kind of dig ourselves out of.”
Going 1-2 during their three-game road trip, the Buffs fall to 4-4 overall, 1-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UNH bounces back from a loss to Fairfield on Friday to improve to 4-5 on the season.
Colorado took an even 12 shots in each half, but New Hampshire’s 23 first half shots helped the Wildcats grab an early stronghold. CU edged UNH in groundballs 13 to 12, but the Wildcats had the upper-hand in draw controls, leading CU 17 to 10, including six to four in the second half.
“They were able to come up with the ball off the draw a lot more than us which gave them some opportunities,” Elliott said of UNH. “They’re very effective on the offense. They have kids that can dodge hard that probably don’t always step up for them starting to step up.”
Both teams were four of eight from the 8-meter, though the Wildcats missed their only free position attempt in the second half. In the crease, Paige Soenksen grabbed 12 saves for the Buffs, while UNH’s Taylor Hurwitz got 10.
After turning the ball over 20 times against No. 9 UMass on Friday, CU did a much better job of handling the ball against UNH, with just nine turnovers. Three different Buffs caused three of UNH’s 13 turnovers.
Six Buffs scored, with Johnna Fusco and Cali Castagnola each recording a hat trick and one assist apiece. Amanda Salvadore scored two goals off two shots. Three different Wildcats had hat tricks, with Laura Puccia, Molly Gaffey and Nicole Grote leading the way. Grote also had a game-high four assists.
The game started out tight, with two ties and lead changes in the first eight minutes and 20 seconds. UNH’s Grote scored her first of three in the first 1:23. Colorado then scored back-to-back goals to grab its first and only lead of the game. Fusco and Sarah Lautman each went unassisted to give CU a 2-1 advantage.
With 21:50 remaining, Emma Kriss would set in motion a 7-0 Wildcat run that lasted just under 20 minutes. Grote assisted Puccia to back-to-back goals in a 30 second span to end the run and grab an 8-2 lead before Gaffey would conclude the run with 7:33 remaining.
Tori Link, assisted by Castagnola, helped CU find its footing in the final seven minutes of the half. UNH pushed its lead back to seven with a free position goal by Kayleigh Hinkle. With 3:30 left before the break, CU grabbed some momentum that would also take them into a strong start to the second half. Castagnola, Salvadore and Fusco each scored to cut UNH’s lead to four at halftime.
Down 10-6, the Buffs began the second half on another 3-0 run, with the same players who ended the half beginning the second. Once again, Castagnola, Fusco and Salvadore netted goals to get the Buff within one at 10-9 with 21:25 remaining in the game.
“Offensively, our game plan really was to play together,” Elliott said. “It took us a while to get the ball down there and have those opportunities, but once we had them, our kids were able to work together and move the ball quickly so that we were able to get some good looks whether they were off a feed or just dodging hard at the defense. We were able to execute and put those shots away.”
Grote continued to prove a major force for the Wildcats, scoring two goals to get her team back up three. In the final 17:19, the teams traded off on goals, with Katie Macleay scoring CU’s last at 15:15, but the Wildcats’ lead would hold, giving them a 14-11 victory.
CU now returns to Kittredge Field for a two-game home stand. The Buffs take on Brown at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 22. Stick around after the game for an autograph session with the team. The Buffs play their first home MPSF match-up on Friday, March 28, hosting St. Mary’s at 3 p.m. Can’t make it to the games? Catch a live stream at buffs.me/buffslive.
“We’re really excited,” Elliott said of the Buffs’ coming games. “We’re excited to host Brown, and then we’re excited to play St. Mary’s and have our third conference game. We are really just looking forward to continuing to get better every day. I think today was a great day that showed that we can play in those close games. We can fight for every possession. We’re looking to kind of build off that and hopefully put together a full 60 minutes on Saturday against Brown.”