BOULDER – Behind a program-high number of goals, the University of Colorado lacrosse team swiftly defeated the St. Mary’s Gaels 19-5 here Friday in the Buffaloes’ inaugural Mountain Pacific Sports Federation home game.
The Buffs continue to break records and earn firsts in their inaugural season, with Kittredge Field serving as a strong proving ground. With freshmen Cali Castagnola and Amelia Brown leading the way, the Buffs dominated nearly every stat line.
Colorado took 33 shots to St. Mary’s 16 (a new program record besting the previous high of 29 versus Temple on March 4), including an astounding 22-9 in the first half. CU’s 19 total goals are also a program record, as are the 14 in the first half. The Buffs have scored 10 goals in a single half in two previous games, in the first half versus MSPF opponent Fresno State and in the second against Temple.
The Buffs also demolished their previous record in assists, grabbing 13 on the day, including an amazing single-game record of seven by Katie Macleay. The seven points are also a game-high for Macleay.
CU was also impressive on the ground, scooping up 23 ground balls to SMC’s eight, limiting the Gaels to just one second half ground ball. The Buffs have now had four games with at least 20 ground balls.
The Buffs were strong on the defensive end, with goalies Paige Soenksen and Sophia Gambitsky combining for seven total saves. CU was also a perfect 18 for 18 in clears.
Colorado had much better control of the ball than it has in some of its previous outings, recording just 14 fouls and turning the ball over 13 times. Saint Mary’s, who leads the conference in turnovers, but also leads the nation in caused turnovers, gave the ball up 21 times and caused just two of CU’s errors.
“Doing the little things is always a focus for us in every game,” CU head coach Ann Elliott said. “We want to win ground balls and draw controls because that gives us more opportunities [to score] than the other team. We definitely stressed just being aggressive all over the field; we had a rough couple games before and I felt we needed to just get out and play our game and play as hard as we could.”
With the win, the Buffs recover from a three-game losing skid to improve to 5-5 overall, 2-1 MPSF. The Buffs are also 3-1 at home. SMC is left looking for its first win of the season, falling to 0-6, 0-4.
Amelia Brown had a career performance against St. Mary’s, netting four goals, smashing her previous bests of one against Temple, Fresno State and UMass. Castagnola continues to be a standout for Colorado. After seeing her five-game scoring streak put to bed against Brown last weekend, Castagnola came back with a vengeance, having her fourth game with at least four goals. Four other Buffs scored, including Maddie DeWinter and Claire McCain netting their firsts.
“They [the goals] mostly came from dodging hard, making good cuts to get open for my teammates and working hard at every spot on the field,” Castagnola said.
SMC’s leading scorer senior Allie DeBruhl paced the Gaels with a hat trick, while senior Rachel Minarovich and junior Jaclyn Biggers each netted one.
“Today was a great opportunity for us,” Elliott said. “It’s a conference game so it was a huge game for us. Every conference game for us is extremely important for achieving our ultimate goal of making the conference tournament and competing. We really focused on doing the little things and coming out aggressive today and I thought our girls were able to do that from the beginning, both offensively and defensively, and it helped us get the win.”
CU opened the game with a 3-0 run, with Brown going unassisted at 27:55, marking the third fastest goal in program history. Macleay got her first assist of the game just over a minute later, helping Sarah Lautman give CU a 2-0 lead. Marie Moore helped make it a three-goal game off a free-position shot in the first 4:31.
DeBruhl finally helped SMC get a response, narrowing the margin to two goals, but CU was ready for another scoring attack. In just over four minutes, the Buffs scored four more goals, with Castagnola netting back-to-back goals in less than two minutes to give CU a 7-1 lead.
Once again, DeBruhl quelled the Buffs’ drive, scoring the Gaels’ first and only FPS goal with 19:54 remaining, but as they did before, CU came charging back. The Buffs ended the half on a 7-0 run. Lautman and Moore scored unassisted goals to start the run, pushing CU’s lead to seven. With 12:48 remaining before the break, DeWinter scored her first career goal, getting an assist from Macleay to net the Buffs’ 10th. Castagnola pushed the lead to 11 less than a minute later.
Despite a draught that lasted over six minutes, the Buffs continued to score in the final 5:27. Tori Link, assisted by Lautman, got Colorado back on track, giving CU a resounding 10-goal lead. Brown once again went unassisted and Macleay connected with Castagnola once more to give CU a 14-2 lead at the break.
“I love playing with my team and we really work well together,” Castagnola said. “When we work together, a lot of opportunities to score open up.”
Though CU had staged second half comebacks in its previous three games, the Buffs had no need to against St. Mary’s, but did continue the trend of holding their opponents less than five goals in the final 30. The Buffs kept on the attack to start the second half, with Johnna Fusco scoring just 28 seconds after stepping onto the field. Two minutes later, Brown extended CU’s lead to 13.
St. Mary’s and Colorado traded off on goals to end the game, with each team scoring three goals in the final 24:25. Minarovich, DeBruhl and Biggers made a push for the Gaels, but the Buffs were always there to respond. Moore and Fusco acted as rebuttals, scoring with 21:16 and 11:20 remaining, respectively. Claire McCain, assisted by Katie Carroll added the final nail the coffin in the last 1:19 to solidify CU’s 19-5 victory.
Next week, the Buffs travel to California to face two MPSF opponents. First up, CU takes on UC Davis at 2 p.m. MT on Friday, April 4. The Buffs conclude the trip at Stanford, taking on the reigning MPSF tournament champions on Sunday, April 6 at 2 p.m. MT. CU-Stanford will air on the Pac-12 Regional Networks.