QUICKLY: The University of Colorado lacrosse team ended its regular season on a high note, defeating Oregon 10-9 in a sudden victory battle. Now the inaugural Buffaloes (10-7, 6-3) are headed to their first Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. Colorado will take on another team it defeated in an sudden victory thriller, San Diego State.
TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: The No. 3-seeded Buffs will face the No. 6-seeded Aztecs at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 1 at Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. An All-Session Pass that includes all five games is available for $25, while individual game tickets are $10 for an adult (16+) and $5 for a student with a valid ID or for a youth. Free parking is available in lots 103 and 108. For more information, including links to ticket purchasing and directions, please visit http://j.mp/PLKWVb. Fans can also watch a live stream by purchasing a monthly subscription to PioneerVision at http://buffs.me/1nEgifs.
SCOUTING THE SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS: Posting a 7-9 overall, 4-5 MPSF regular season record, the SDSU Aztecs are headed to the first ever postseason of their three year history. The Aztecs won six of their first seven games before losing eight in a row, six of which were decided by five or more goals. Despite that losing streak, SDSU dropped Mountain matches against CU and then-No. 20 Denver by a single goal. SDSU ended the regular season with a win, soundly defeating Fresno State 17-4. Eighteen Aztecs have scored this season, with nine netting 11 or more goals. Meris Walsh leads the way with 32 goals and one assist. Michaela Jarvis is the top point-getter, with 38 off an even 19 goals and assists. Christina Ricciardulli ranks fifth in the MPSF in draw controls per game, totalling 52 for an average of 3.25 per game. She has also contributed 25 goals, four assists and 26 ground balls. Lead goalie Katrina Reeves holds a 12.16 goals-against average and has grabbed 91 saves in over 755 minutes. SDSU ranks 22nd in the nation in draw controls, averaging 13.25 per game and in the DI’s top 40 in caused turnovers (8.63 per game) and scoring offense.
COLORADO VS. SDSU: San Diego State is the first team that the Buffs will have played more than once. The two teams previously met in Boulder on a snowy April 13, with the Buffs claiming a 7-6 win in the sudden victory period. SDSU went into the break up 4-2, but the Buffs, who managed just 11 shots in regulation, outscored the Aztecs four to two in the second half to send the game into extra minutes. The Aztecs took six shots in overtime play, while limiting the Buffs to two, but CU showed its late game strength. Four minutes ticked away as the teams both pushed for a sudden victory in the final minutes of overtime, and Sarah Lautman hammered one home to claim the win.
BUFFS OUTLAST OREGON DUCKS: The regular season finale saw Colorado and Oregon tied five times. Both teams held a three-goal lead at one point in the game, but it was the Buffs that came out victorious, claiming the 10-9 win. The game, which CU head coach Ann Elliott appropriately dubbed a “doozy,” would take nearly 70 minutes, the last of which saw increasing rain fall. CU used a 4-0 first half run to cut down Oregon’s three-goal lead and grab its first advantage of the game. With just 12 seconds left before the intermission, Oregon would tie things back at 5-5. The teams traded off on 3-0 runs in the second half to force extra minutes. With Oregon scoring the last three goals of regulation, Colorado needed to find its footing to grab the “W.” Johnna Fusco and the Buffs defense were the first keys to the Buffs’ late push. Oregon took the first shot of the period, but a caused turnover by Maddie Hunt and a ground ball by Marie Moore helped CU get on the attack. Forty-three seconds before the teams switched sides, Fusco netted the 40th of goal of her career. Just 32 seconds later, Oregon made a push of its own, with Casey Brogan forcing a tie that would hold through the second OT period. Taking two of CU’s final three shots (both on goal), Sarah Lautman once again came out as the star of overtime. She hammered home the game-winner 5:23 into sudden victory.
ALL-MPSF: All-MPSF lacrosse selections were announced Wednesday, and the inaugural Buffs made a strong showing. Goalie Paige Soenksen was named the MPSF Rookie of the Year and was also a first-team selection. Midfielders Johnna Fusco and Marie Moore were named to the first and second teams, respectively. CU ended the regular season with six Rookie of the Week and one Offensive Player of the Week titles. The young Colorado squad was the only team to have a player win more than one ROW title this year, and the Buffs accomplished the feat twice, with Johnna Fusco winning three and Paige Soenksen winning the title in back-to-back weeks.
BUFFS IN THE POSTSEASON: Colorado truly lived its motto of “be uncommon.” With 10 regular season wins, the Buffs had one of the best inaugural seasons of any team in MPSF history. The Buffs surpassed USC’s inaugural win total of eight from last season, while matching Cal’s win total from both its inaugural season (1999) and first season in the MPSF (2004). Stanford does not have stats from its first two seasons, but went 12-11 in its third year, 1997. UC Davis posted a 19-1 record in its inaugural year of ‘97, though 15 of the teams the Aggies faced were club programs. In 2004, they went 12-5. The conference tournament will mark CU’s first ever neutral site game. The Buffs have played at Barton Lacrosse Stadium twice, taking on Denver in both fall ball and regular season play. CU holds a 3-2 record over the other teams in the MPSF Tourney. All three of their wins (over USC, SDSU and Oregon) came in overtime play, while both losses came against ranked teams (then-No. 18 DU and then-No. 8 Stanford). The Buffs finished in a three-way tie for third in the standings, but received the No. 3 seed by virtue of defeating both USC and Oregon in the regular season.
LATE GAME HEROICS: Late game play has been essential for CU this season. The Buffs have experienced overtime in three of their last five games. CU is a perfect 3-0 in overtime, with Sarah Lautman netting the game-winner in each. The Buffs have also outscored their competition in the second half of three of their last five games, which helped them to overtime victories over USC and SDSU. CU is 8-2 when outscoring its opponent in the second half. Second half defense has also been important, for 13 straight games (and 14 of 17 total games), the Buffs have held their opponent to five or fewer second half goals. The Buffs have claimed nine of their 10 victories when doing so.
NAILBITERS: Four of the Buffs’ last five games have been determined by a single goal. Three of those games went into extra minutes, with two decided by a sudden victory. The lone game in that span to not be decided by a single goal was only determined by two. The Buffs have gone 4-1 in their last five games, picking up OT wins over USC, SDSU and Oregon and a non-conference 12-10 regulation victory over Old Dominion. The Buffs’ only loss was a 7-6 defeat to California, marking just CU’s second home loss and third in the conference.
SUNNY ONE SO TRUE: Paige Soenksen, the MPSF Rookie of the Year, is not only the anchor of CU’s defense this season, but has also shined as one of the nation’s top shot blockers. Soenksen has started all 17 of CU’s games, helping the Buffs to 10 wins, including six in MPSF play. She ranks third nationally in saves (177), saves per game (10.41) and save percentage (.524). She holds a 9.97 goals-against average, spending over 968 minutes between the pipes. Soenksen earned back-to-back MPSF Rookie of the Week titles during the regular season. Her first came after a trip to her home state of California, where she combined for 28 saves and an incredible .609 save percentage in games against UC Davis and then-No. 8 Stanford. Against the Cardinal, Soenksen recorded a career-high and MPSF season-high-tying 19 saves. Continuing her strong defensive presence in the following week, Soenksen helped the Buffs to back-to-back overtime victories over USC and San Diego State. She tallied 27 saves and seven ground balls on the weekend, having a career-high four ground balls against SDSU. In another overtime thriller, this time against Oregon in the regular season finale, Soenksen grabbed seven saves off the 29 shots she faced.
THE FUSCO, THE PROUD: Johnna Fusco ended the regular season the same way she began it – with an outstanding performance and an MPSF Rookie of the Week honor. Fusco, a midfielder from Marietta, Ga., was an integral part of CU’s 10-9 sudden victory win over Oregon. Fusco had a game-high six points off of five goals (matching her career-high and the CU single-game record) and one assist. She led the team with five draw controls and had a ground ball and a caused turnover. CU used a 4-0 first half run to enter halftime in a 5-5 tie. During that scoring run, Fusco had an unassisted natural hat trick. Her fourth goal gave CU its biggest lead of the game at 8-5 and her fifth was the first of overtime play (43 seconds before the first side change). The ROW title is Fusco’s third. Fusco, an All-MPSF First Team selection, leads the team with 40 goals, 54 points and 85 shots and ranks second with 11 free-position goals, 14 assists, 32 ground balls and 47 draw controls. She holds CU single-game records with 8 points, 5 goals, 7 ground balls and 3 caused turnovers. Fusco has scored in all but two of her 16 games played, picking up four hat tricks and scoring four or more in four other games.
GIVE ME MOORE: Marie Moore continues her solid freshman season by earning a spot on the All-MPSF Second Team. Moore leads the team (and ranks 39th in the nation) with 62 draw controls, outpacing the nearest Buff by 15. The team co-captain also has a team-high 41 ground balls (ranking 40th nationally) and is one of four Buffs to have caused 12 turnovers. Moore recently broke her own program record by winning 11 draws against Old Dominion. She has scored in 12 of 17 games, recording six hat tricks.
LOOK OUT ITS LAUT: Sarah Lautman knows OT. The sophomore and former CU club lacrosse player has sent in all three of the Buffs’ overtime game-winners this season. Lautman first accomplished the feat in back-to-back games to claim CU’s first ever MPSF Offensive Player of the Week title. Lautman recorded her second hat trick of the season against USC, first tying things up at 3-3, then again at 9-9 after the Buffs had gotten down by three goals for the second time. As the final three seconds of the second overtime period ticked away, Lautman got a rebound to net the game-winner as the final horn sounded, giving CU a 12-11 victory. Just two days later, Lautman scored the sudden-victory winner against SDSU to give CU a 7-6 win. In that game, she netted a career-high four goals and took six of CU’s 13 shots. She gave the Buffs their first lead of the game at 6-5 with 3:37 left in regulation and scored the game-winner with 2:01 remaining in the final overtime period. Lautman had two goals in CU’s final regular season game - a 10-9 sudden victory win over Oregon. She scored the first goal of the second half and then got her third game winner after some persistence in the last minutes of sudden victory. Lautman ranks second on the team with 70 shots and 57 shots on goal and ranks third with 29 ground balls.
DEFENDERS DOING WORK: Defense has been a major part of the Buffs’ success this season. Against Oregon, CU’s starting defenders combined for eight of the Buffs’ 12 ground balls. Maddie Hunt had two ground balls and two caused turnovers in the win. Her second CT was key to CU setting the tone in the first period of overtime. With 1:32 remaining before the teams’ first side change, Hunt caused a turnover from Oregon’s leading scorer in the game, Olivia Pyne. The Buffs used the possession to take a 9-8 lead. Perri Baker, Maddie DeWinter and Molly Rovzar have been consistent factors in CU’s defense. Baker proves strong on the draw, ranking third on the team with 24 draw controls. Baker has scooped up 24 ground balls and, with DeWinter, ties for a team-high 12 caused turnovers. DeWinter is the only defensive field player to record points this season, netting her first collegiate goal and contributing an assist in CU’s 19-5 thrashing of St. Mary’s. DeWinter has also grabbed 22 total ground balls. Co-captain Rovzar holds a balanced stat line with 17 ground balls, six draw controls and six caused turnovers.
GOING BACK TO CALI: Cali Castagnola has one of the Buffs’ most impressive resumes, leading the team with 12 from free-position shots, and ranking second with 37 goals and 44 points. Castagnola also holds the team’s best shooting percentage at .649. She ranks second in the conference in free-position goals, averaging 0.71 per game. She has scored in all but three of the Buffs’ games, having six games with three or more goals. CU has a 5-0 record when Castagnola scores at least four goals. Castagnola was a perfect 1-for-1 against Oregon, sending her only shot into the back of the net during CU’s 3-0 run to start the second half.
NEXT UP: If the Buffs win, they will head to the MPSF Tournament semi-finals to face No. 2-seeded and No. 18-ranked Stanford. The semi-finals begin at 4 p.m. with a match-up between the winner of the Oregon-USC game and No. 1 seed and No. 20-ranked Denver. Stanford will face CU or SDSU at 7 p.m.