QUICKLY: The University of Colorado lacrosse team ended its first ever postseason game in dramatic fashion. Trailing by three goals in the second half, the Buffaloes (11-7 overall) fought back and claimed a 9-8 win behind a sudden victory goal by Johnna Fusco. No. 3 seed CU will now take on the reigning Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament champion and No. 18 ranked Stanford in the conference semifinals on Friday at 7 p.m.
TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: The No. 3-seeded Buffs will face the No. 2-seeded Cardinal at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 2 at Denver’s Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. An All-Session Pass 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 STANFORD CARDINAL: Stanford is looking for its ninth tournament championship in 10 years. The team holds a 13-3 overall, 7-2 MPSF record, going 4-1 against teams ranked in the IWLCA top 20. Stanford fell twice in MPSF play, losing to Denver and USC, but ended the regular season with an 18-7 win over rival California. The Cardinal ranks in the nation’s top 25 in winning percentage, scoring offense, scoring margin, points and ground balls. Stanford placed five players on the MPSF first team and one more on the second team. MPSF Player of the Year and two-sport standout Hannah Farr leads the team with 39 draw controls, ties a team-high 27 goals and ranks third with eight assists, 35 points and 27 ground balls. Colorado native and Stanford sophomore Lucy Dikeou has recorded at least one point in each of her 13 games played, scoring 16 goals in her last five. Nine total players have scored in the double digits, with six netting at least 21. In the crease, Lyndsey Munoz holds an 8.77 goals-against average and .396 save percentage.
COLORADO VS. STANFORD: Stanford is now the second team the Buffs have faced more than once. While CU grabbed a 2-0 series lead over San Diego State on Thursday, the Buffs are still looking for their first win over Stanford. In their first meeting on April 6, CU battled back to within three goals late in the first half, but the then-No. 8 Stanford Cardinal proved too strong a foe, downing the Buffs 13-5. Stanford came out to a 5-0 start, but back-to-back goals by the Buffs helped trim their deficit to three. Stanford quickly got back to form, closing the first half on a 3-0 run to enter the break with an 8-2 lead. The Cardinal took a season-high 40 shots in the game, while holding CU to a season-low-tying 13. Despite being slowed on the offense, CU played a clean game, having a season-low 12 fouls and six turnovers. On the defensive end, Paige Soenksen had a career-high and MPSF season-high-tying 19 saves.
CU-SDSU, TAKE TWO: Though the journey was different, the outcome was the same, with CU taking down SDSU in double-overtime. This time, Johnna Fusco netted the sudden victory game-winner to give the Buffs a 9-8 win in the MPSF quarterfinals. CU went into the intermission with a two-goal lead, extending it to three in the opening minutes of the second half. SDSU then used a 10 minute 5-0 run to take a two-goal lead of its own. Ever the team known for late game heroics, CU evened the score in the final seven minutes of regulation. SDSU might have had momentum for the majority of the second half, but CU continued its overtime dominance. The Aztecs took two shots to the Buffs’ one in the first period of overtime, but neither were enough to take the lead and the win. The teams headed to the sudden victory period, where CU wasted little time in ending the game. In the first minute, Fusco got fouled and set up for a free-position shot. In the process, she got fouled again. This time she’d make it count and end the game.
IN THE RANKS: The Buffs have had a strong inaugural schedule, with four of their seven defeats coming at the hands of teams ranked or receiving votes in the IWLCA poll. Three ranked teams have been the only opponents to hold CU to five or fewer goals. Since falling to then-No. 8 Stanford in April, the Buffs have won five of their last six games, falling only to MPSF opponent California during that span.
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 winning three and Paige Soenksen winning the title in back-to-back weeks.
BUFFS IN THE POSTSEASON: Colorado has truly lived its motto of “be uncommon.” With 11 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 and Cal’s win total of 10 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 marks CU’s first ever neutral site games. Before their 9-8 tourney win over SDSU, the Buffs played at Peter 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: CU has a growing knack for overtime play. The Buffs have gone into extra minutes in four of their last six games. In fact, all the teams playing in Thursday’s MPSF quarterfinals (SDSU, USC and Oregon) lost to CU in overtime during the regular season. CU is now a perfect 4-0 in overtime, picking up two OT wins over SDSU. Sarah Lautman has scored three overtime game-winners, including in back-to-back regular season games against USC and SDSU. Despite the tendency for overtime, CU did break two late-game trends on Thursday, though these were more likely to hurt than help the Buffs. Colorado entered halftime up 4-2, but San Diego State came surging back in the final 30 minutes of regulation, outscoring CU six to four. For the first time in their last 14 games, and for just the fourth time total, the Buffs allowed more than five second half goals. Outscoring opponents in the second half in eight of their 10 victories entering the postseason matchup, Thursday marked just the second time the Buffs got a win when being outscored in the second half. Against Fresno State, the Bulldogs outscored the Buffs five to two in the second half, but CU was barely affected after their 10-1 first half dominance.
NAILBITERS: Five of the Buffs’ last six games have been determined by a single goal. Four of those games went into extra minutes, with three 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 5-1 in their last six games. 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 18 of CU’s games, helping the Buffs to 11 wins. She ranks third nationally in saves (187), saves per game (10.39) and save percentage (.525). She holds a 9.79 goals-against average, spending over 1,035 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 CU’s double-overtime thriller MPSF quarterfinal against SDSU, Soenksen grabbed 10 saves, including seven in the first half alone.
THE FUSCO, THE PROUD: Hot off earning the season’s final MPSF Rookie of the Week honor for her six point performance against Oregon, Fusco had another career performance against SDSU. Against Oregon, Fusco matched her career-high and the CU single-game record with five goals, including an unassisted natural hat trick during CU’s 4-0 first half run. In the tournament opener, she led the Buffs with a hat trick and two assists. Fusco, an All-MPSF First Team selection, leads the team with 43 goals, 59 points and 92 shots, ties for first with 12 free-position goals and ranks second with 16 assists, 33 ground balls and 49 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 17 games played, picking up five 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 67 draw controls, outpacing the nearest Buff by 18. The team co-captain also has a team-high 42 ground balls (ranking 40th nationally) and 15 caused turnovers. She has scored in 13 of 18 games, recording six hat tricks.
LOOK OUT ITS LAUT: Sarah Lautman knows OT. The sophomore and former CU club lacrosse player has sent in three of the Buffs’ four 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 74 shots and 59 shots on goal and ties for third with 29 ground balls.
GOING BACK TO CALI: Cali Castagnola has one of the Buffs’ most impressive resumes, tying a team-high with 12 free-position goals, and ranking second with 38 goals and 46 points. Castagnola also holds the team’s best shooting percentage at .633. 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 had a goal and an assist against SDSU on Thursday, scoring the Buffs’ first and assisting the game-tying goal to force overtime.
MACLEAY ASSISTING THE BUFFS TO VICTORY: Katie Macleay leads the team with 17 assists, and with 16 goals, ranks third on the team with 33 points. Macleay set a CU single-game record at St. Mary’s, recording seven of the Buffs’ 13 assists. The seven assists also tied for fourth most in MPSF history and are the second most this season (behind Oregon’s Shannon Propst nine assist performance at Stetson on February 10). Macleay scored two goals off five shots against SDSU.
DEFENDERS DOING WORK: Defense has been a major part of the Buffs’ success this season. 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 28 draw controls, 29 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers. Baker had a strong performance against SDSU, scooping up five ground balls, winning four draw controls and causing a turnover. 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 had another solid showing against SDSU, contributing an assist while grabbing three ground balls and causing two turnovers. On the season, DeWinter has 25 ground balls, 14 caused turnovers and nine draw controls. Co-captain Rovzar also holds a balanced stat line with 17 ground balls, seven draw controls and six caused turnovers.
NEXT UP: If the Buffs win, they will head to the MPSF Tournament Finals to face either Oregon or No. 20 Denver on Saturday, May 4 at 11 a.m.