DAVIS, Calif. – With strong performances across the board, the University of Colorado eased to its third Mountain Pacific Sports Federation win of the inaugural season, taking down UC Davis 14-5 at Aggie Stadium.
The conference opponents were relatively well matched entering the game. The Buffaloes (6-5 overall, 3-1 MPSF) just edge the Aggies (6-5, 1-3) in points and shots per game, areas where CU truly shined on Saturday. Colorado outshot UC Davis 33 to 23, including 20 to 13 in the second half. The Buffs also matched a season-low nine turnovers.
The Aggies did grab the upper-hand in ground balls (13 to 11) and draw controls (11 to nine, and five to two in the first half), which helped UCD fight for contention.
The Buffs once again had a stellar defensive performance, successfully clearing the ball in each of their 12 attempts, marking the second straight game the Buffs were perfect on clears. In the crease, Paige Soenksen grabbed nine saves and held UCD to just one first half goal. For the fifth straight game, CU held its opponent to five or fewer goals in the second half.
“Paige did great,” CU head coach Ann Elliott said. “Especially in those first five minutes, she kept us in the game. If she doesn’t make some of those saves in the first five minutes, then it’s a totally different game. We’re down by three goals instead of being up by a couple. She’s always solid back there. She makes the saves that we need her to make, and on top of that, she comes up with some of those big saves that are wide open. She continues to be a leader and a strong part of our defense.”
Johnna Fusco and Cali Castagnola led the Buffs offensively. Fusco had a career-high five goals and three assists, while Castagnola had her second consecutive game with four goals. Castagnola has now had five games with at least four goals. Five other Buffs each added a goal of their own. Once again, Katie Macleay was an important part of the attack, contributing three assists.
“We were having trouble defensively, coming up and finishing plays, coming up with the ground balls, but once we were able to do that, we were able to push the transition,” Elliott said. “We worked on transition all week because we knew we might get some opportunities where we could run by people in the midfield, and our kids were able to execute that in the game. I think between Cali, Johnna and our entire attack, they were able to find openings early on and put their shots away.”
UCD’s Elizabeth Landry, who ranks in the nation’s top 50 in goals, points and draw controls, led the Aggies with a hat trick, four ground balls and three draw controls. Ellie Delich and Lauren Nardi were the only other Aggies able to sneak past Soenksen. Goalie Kai Murphy had 10 saves.
“Today was a big game for us,” Elliott said. “It was another great opportunity for us in our conference. It was one that we wanted to come out just like we did last week, and be aggressive and really play together as a team and see if we could play for a full 60 minutes. We came out to a little bit of a slower, sloppy start, but then our kids were kind of able to pick it up and play hard. It was a very physical game, but we were able to keep our composure and execute offensively and defensively, which was exciting for us.”
Though UC Davis took the first three shots of the game, CU scored goals off its first four. CU also took great advantage of UCD errors, with the Buffs scoring four of their first five goals off of three Aggie turnovers and one foul.
Following her career performance against St. Mary’s last week, Amelia Brown started things off for the Buffs in the ninth minute off a Fusco assist. Fusco kept the ball rolling, finding Castagnola just two minutes later to put CU up 2-0.
The Aggies scored their first, and only, goal of the first half with just under 19 minutes remaining. Delich halved the Buffs’ lead, but that’s the closest UCD would get for the remainder of the game.
CU closed the opening period on a 3-0 run. Fusco grabbed her third assist after connecting with Tori Link at 16:46. In the next four minutes, Castagnola and Sarah Lautman both went unassisted to give CU the 5-1 lead at halftime. Though both teams were held scoreless in the final 11:31 before the break, CU outshot UCD seven to two in those closing minutes, with Fusco leading the way with three near-goals.
“UC Davis, they’re strong, they’re quick on the draw control, and they were beating us to the ground balls, obviously in our first half,” Elliott said. “I think we changed stuff up a little bit on the way we were taking the draws. It really just came down to our kids just being able to battle and go in threes and fours to the ball and be a little scrappy, hopefully run through it on that third opportunity, that fourth opportunity that we got and come up with it.”
Winning just two draws in the first half, CU came out more victorious in the second, getting seven draw controls to UC Davis’ six. This helped the Buffs grab some early momentum in the second half, with Fusco netting back-to-back goals in the first 8:05 to give CU a five goal advantage.
UC Davis pushed back, getting two straight in two minutes. First, Nardi scored from the 8-meter, and then Landry got the Aggies back within four with her 30th goal of the season. Colorado quickly dashed its opponent’s hopes, with Fusco responding 41 seconds after Landry. Castagnola came surging two minutes later, to get CU back up six.
Landry once again made a push for her squad with 15:12 remaining, but in the final quarter of play, CU used a 5-1 run to close out the game. Castagnola and Fusco were bookends for CU’s 4-0 scoring spree that lasted nearly 10 minutes, with Amanda Salvadore and Marie Moore each scoring goals and Macleay adding all three of her assists in that span.
With 3:47 on the clock, Landry solidified her hat trick, but the game already belonged to the Buffs. An indelible threat, especially in late game situations, Fusco notched the Buffs’ last with 1:10 remaining to help CU to the 14-5 win. Fusco has scored five of CU’s 10 latest goals this season.
The Buffs conclude their MPSF road trip at No. 8 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.
“Stanford is a great team,” Elliott said. “They have a lot of depth. They’re athletic. They’re fast offensively. They have a lot of different ways they can beat you. Our focus is going to be playing as a team. To be successful against that type of team, we need everyone to be on the same page. You’ve got to go out there and be aggressive; you can’t be scared at all, but you’ve got to work together. That’s really been our message to the girls the last couple of weeks we were getting ready for this game. We’re excited for the opportunity and to see what we can do as a group on Sunday.”