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University of Colorado head soccer coach Danny Sanchez, senior midfielder Darcy Jerman and sophomore forward Brie Hooks previewed the 2014 season at Media Day on Saturday.

Entering his third year with the program, coach Sanchez said the Buffaloes have progressed further than even he expected them to, shocking some teams last season as the advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for just the second time in program history. The Buffs believe confidence and in-team competition will help them continue to grow in 2014.

Sanchez stressed the importance of the non-conference season, especially the Buffs’ three Colorado Cup games against Colorado State, Northern Colorado and Denver. He believes a push to another NCAA Tournament begins when the Buffs face California in the Pac-12 Conference opener, because in the “Conference of Champions,” there is no room for error.

CU will open the 2014 campaign at Prentup Field with back-to-back Colorado Cup tournament games, facing CSU at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 22 and UNC at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 24. The first 500 fans in attendance for the home opener will receive a commemorative pennant celebrating the Buffs’ 2013 Sweet 16 appearance. Both games will air on the Pac-12 Networks.  

Colorado Head Soccer Coach Danny Sanchez

“We’re excited to get going. We’re in our fourth day of preseason. It’s been going pretty well. I’m pleased with the returners; I’m pleased with the transfers and the incoming freshmen we’ve picked up. We’re looking forward to August 22. As most of you hopefully know, Colorado State started a women’s soccer program last year, so we’re going to open up against them and get that rivalry going as part of the Colorado Cup. It’s the 22nd here at Prentup at 4 p.m., and that will also be on the Pac-12 Networks. We’re gearing towards that, and that’s all of our focus. We’re excited.”

On the Colorado Cup
“We won it the first couple years and the University of Denver won it last year. This year they’ve added so all six Division I programs in the state are a part of it. It’s a little complicated because a lot of those teams are in the Mountain West Conference. Basically you’ll play three of the teams three points for a win, one point for a tie, goal differential and so forth. We’ll play Colorado State, Northern Colorado and the University of Denver as our three matches. At the end of the season, the top point getter will hold the Cup. We put a lot of emphasis and pride in it. We’re really trying to build the event up. In 2015, on the Sunday of the first weekend, all six teams will play at CU, which I think will be a great event. This year, they’re all kind of going to be hosted at the different sites. We’re excited to get going. We want to get started with the weekend and establish ourselves as the top program in the state.”

“How it works this year is there are six teams and every team is going to play three games. It’s not realistic to play all five, for us especially, plus three of the teams are in the Mountain West Conference. Basically we rotate it so every team will play three games. It’s three points for a win, one for a tie and if two teams finish 3-0, then it will be goal differential. Last year we lost on goal differential to DU. It was something that was started by Bill Hempen, the former CU coach, and Jeff Hooker at DU Darcy’s freshman year. I think we want to slowly continue to build it. There was a little bit of pain and suffering as we tried to figure out how to get all six teams involved. If it’s truly going to be the Colorado Cup, then all six Colorado programs need to be involved. We got that done this year. Like I said, I’m excited for this year, but I’m really excited for next year where on that Sunday the first weekend of school, all six teams will play at CU. We’ll make it a really big event and really build it up and get the community involved. I think there’s over 50 players from the state of Colorado that play on the various teams. Like Darcy said, a lot of them played at club against them growing up. We want to continue to build it. Not only build it here, but build it nationally so that it’s something that we’re playing for. We’re putting a lot of emphasis on it, and we want to get off to a good start. It may come down to goal differential because we don’t play Colorado College and we don’t play Air Force in the Cup. We want to start well and we want to retain the Cup. We put a lot of emphasis on it.”

“I don’t know of (any other states) that does it. I think it’s pretty unique to us, and it takes a lot of cooperation between the six head coaches because everyone has different strengths of schedule and scheduling issues and the three teams being in the Mountain West. It took a lot of cooperation, a lot of phone calls and emails, but at the end of the day, it’s about growing the game and it’s for the good of the game. It adds a little bit of emphasis to these non-conference games. We just had to figure out a way to do it. I think going forward, especially in ’15, having it all in one event, and selfishly at Prentup, it’s great for us. I think it will grow even more.”

On CU’s facility improvements
“I don’t know what the next step is, but I’m excited every day I come it seems like another mountain of dirt has been moved somewhere. I’m really excited about the renovations. The renovations at Dal Ward and the indoor practice facility will be huge for a lot of the sports. Once we get everything done on this side as far as offices, the high performance center and more room for the Herbst Academic Center, obviously it’s great for football, but it’s great for everybody. I think all the programs will benefit from it.”

On building the program
“I think we jumped ahead a little bit further than we thought we would be. I think that last year maybe we snuck up on some people, especially early in the season. In conference play, we kind of did what we needed to do, but to be honest with you, we were probably one of the last teams to get into the NCAA Tournament. You’ve just got to get in and then anything can happen at that point as we showed. I’m pleased with where we’re at. I’m pleased with the support we get shown. I’m really pleased with my staff, and not only my staff, but the strength staff, academic and everybody. I think we’ve got some good momentum going right now, and we want to continue to build off that. I think the bar has been raised and the players and the program realize that. It’s the Pac-12. Like I said, we beat the 12th place team 1-0 and we lost to the national champs 1-0. There’s no room for error.”

“I think at the end of the day, any coach will tell you it’s the players. I think we need to continue to recruit. We’re recruiting the best players in the country and hopefully convincing some of them to come here, but also recruiting players we think will be good fits for the University of Colorado. We’re making good strides in that area, but so are the other teams in the Pac-12. You’re only as good as the players you have in the program and we need to continue to find talented players like these two. As we lose Darcy and some of our other seniors, we need to continue to reload if we’re going to take that next step as a program.”

On the first four days of fall camp
“It’s gone well. The team came in pretty fit, which is always a challenge. You always have a couple that will need a little extra push, but the core group really did well. We’re real pleased with that. We’re pleased with where we’re at. I think we’re ahead of where we were a couple years ago. We’re about building confidence and trying to prove that they’re better than the record that they had when Darcy was a sophomore and they won four games total and one Pac-12 game. I think that we’re past that stage now. We talk a lot about they need to have confidence. We played against the best teams in the country last year. Florida State we weren’t ready for that game. We got it handed to us, and rightfully so. Like I told them, if you don’t get into big games like that, you don’t know what they’re about. Hopefully we get that opportunity again, and I think we’ll be more prepared as a team and as a coaching staff to have success.”

On depth of the team
“I think you saw a little bit last year when Brie missed the beginning of conference play and then Olivia Pappalardo got hurt toward the end of conference play. It took us a while to figure out how to make adjustments when those players were out. I think this year, we’ll have competition everywhere, starting in goal, but really throughout the team we’ll have better depth than we had. That doesn’t always translate to wins and losses, but I think that like Darcy talked about, we’re able to push the players a little bit harder in training because there is more competition. Obviously as we get into the season, we’ll start to settle in a little bit, but right now, everything’s up for grabs and I think the players realize that. Some will respond and some won’t, but hopefully most of them will respond to that pressure and competition every day.”

On competition at the goalkeeper position
“(Annie) Brunner was great. She was a four-year starter, two years with us, and I think she really developed under Jason Green, our goalkeeping coach. She went from a player that when we got here was struggling to a player that was very confident and was a big time leader for us last year in the goal and as a captain. She’s a big loss. Having said that, we feel pretty good about where we’re at. Kenzie Tillitt was a freshman last year. She didn’t get much time at all, some mop-up time for Brunner, but played all spring and did really well. We picked up Scout Watson, a freshman out of Kansas City, who’s played on a very good club team, which sometimes that translates as she never sees the ball. She came to one of our ID camps last summer and showed really well. We were able to convince her to come here. Kate Scheele will transfer out of Colorado College. She has some great experience. She had a great season last year for Colorado College as they won Conference-USA regular season and postseason and lost in PKs in the first round to Duke. She’s very good and experienced. It’s probably our deepest position, and we’re really excited for the competition there to see how it plays out.”

On the 2014 schedule
“It’s always s a balancing act because you want to get prepared for the conference play but you don’t want to kill yourself before conference play because we know those 11 games in conference are all going to be battles. We feel pretty good about it. We like that fact that we have 13 games here at Prentup. We have the best playing service in the country, and we love playing at home. It’s a challenge; not a lot of teams out of the region want to come play in Boulder in a little bit of heat and at altitude, but we feel good about it. With CSU and UNC, that’s our focus, the first weekend, but we have Kansas coming into town and the University of San Francisco as well. We really like our non-conference schedule. I think it’s a good balance for us with home games and games to get ready for Pac-12 play. Really for us, if we’re going to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, it all starts on September 27 against Cal at home. They’re a tournament team every year, and we’ve had very good games with them. Last year, we tied them at their place. The year before, we lost to them in overtime at home. The non-conference games are important, but our big long-term focus is Cal on the 27th and the 10 games after that.”

On the impact of the Pac-12 Networks
“It’s been great. We sell it with all the players. We recruit a lot against Pac-12 schools, so obviously they have the same advantage. But when we go outside of that, I think the quality of the telecasts, the thing I like is I’ll see someone doing a professional soccer game and then there they are at CU doing our game. I think the quality of the talent and the quality of the production is great. I think the visibility for the program is great. That’s the direction that it’s going with the SEC starting and so forth, but I think the amount of games we have is the most and the quality of the games are the most. It’s important to us because we recruit nationally and internationally, so being able to get good quality production out there and to get it out to recruits and have them get the opportunity to see us and see our beautiful facility and the shots over Boulder before the game has started is big for us. The way that we have to recruit, we don’t have a lot of official visits, a lot of it is unofficial; so we have to sell these top players so we can get them to come here. Well, the Pac-12 Networks helps us with that.”

Senior midfielder Darcy Jerman

On the Colorado Cup
“It means a lot because I’ve grown up playing against all these different players, DU especially, and now CSU. We just want to prove to everyone and keep proving every day that we’re the best in Colorado. That’s what it means to win the Cup, so it’s really important for us.”

On facing DU
“That’s one of our biggest games of the season. That’s our biggest rival I would say. They’re a good team, but we’re a good team too. I think that we get underestimated a lot when we go against them, so we have everything to prove when we play them. I think that we like that.”

On what the team will take from the 2013 season
“I would say experience. Like Danny was saying, that FSU game was pretty brutal, but we learned a lot from that game. This is probably the most intense camp that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s every day, really hard, really positive, a lot of energy. Everyone’s just going as hard as they can, and I think we’re just trying to build as much momentum off of that as we can.”

Sophomore forward Brie Hooks

On mindset following their 2013 postseason run
“I would say that there’s a different mindset just because now we’ve shown that we can reach the Sweet 16. Now we’re not going to go for anything less. We’re just going to keep pushing and hopefully move past the Sweet 16 this year.”

On following up her strong freshman season
“I wouldn’t say that I feel any pressure just because the team that we have this year, it’s not just going to be one person having success or one person up top scoring the goals. It’s going to be everybody working. It’s going to be a team effort every single game. We have so much depth on this team this year anybody can go in and make a difference out there. I don’t feel pressure just knowing that we have a lot of depth on our team. No matter who’s on the field