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Buffaloes Rout Nebraska On Icy Field
The week prior to facing Nebraska in the 2003 season finale, Colorado's soccer team knew it had already clinched its first ever Big 12 Conference title. Although the season had so far been a fairy tale of sorts for the No. 7 Buffaloes, they still had one hill to climb -- CU had yet to beat Nebraska in seven tries and only had a total of four goals in the previous seven meetings.
To thicken the plot, a strong winter storm had hit Boulder the night before, literally covering the field at the Pleasant View Soccer Complex in a sheet of ice. But on this day, Halloween in fact, neither No. 22 Nebraska or the winter storm could keep the Buffaloes from celebrating their Big 12 title. (Keyed in by CU Student Assistant SID Allison Gomez).
“ I guess not,” said junior Jen Thais when asked if she had enough of the ice during the game. “We just wanted to add a little flavor.”
The Buffs (8-1-1 Big 12) clinched the Big 12 regular season title Sunday, when the Huskers lost to Texas. That left CU with 22 points and the second-place Huskers and Longhorns with 18. CU will go into the conference tournament after finishing the season with a commanding four-point difference over the rest of the conference.
The Buffs play Thursday in San Antonio, Texas, against Missouri. The Tigers beat Iowa State, 4-3, Friday. The Buffs topped the Tigers 3-2 in Boulder on Sept. 26 in the conference opener. CU won its first postseason game by beating Mizzou in the first round of the conference tournament last year in the No.4-No.5 game.
“ Going in as the No. 1 seed and as the No. 5 seed and an underdog is a little different,” said CU head coach Bill Hempen, who got a hug from athletic director Dick Tharp during the Big 12 trophy presentation after the game. “Our girls have responded well this season and we expect it to be a battle.”
The Buffs likely locked up a home site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament as one of the top 16 teams in the country. The regular season title does not guarantee a spot, like the tournament winner, but Hempen said “I don’t know for sure, but considering the conditions, I’d say we have a legitimate shot.”
The Huskers had a 6-0 -1 series lead prior to Friday and took a 1-0 lead in the game on a goal from Lindsey Ingram in the 16th minute. CU’s Jessica Keller, who was eighth in the nation in goals against average coming into Friday, then made six saves, including a dicing one in the final minutes of the game.
Exactly two minutes after the first goal, Thais ties the game on her fourth goal of the season. She took a pass from Kathryn Grandinetti and fired a shot from 30 yards out, tucking it into the top corner of the net.
“ This was a big victory for us,” Thais said. “A big theme this year has been earning respect and we had to go out and prove it.”
Just over a minute later, Katie Griffin padded her school record for single-season goals with her 10th. Thais gave her a pass in front of the Husker goal and Griffin caught the ball on her thigh, passed it to her foot and gave the Buffs their final lead of the regular season.
After three goals in three minutes, the teams didn’t score until the second half. Griffin was taken down in the box in the 58th minute, giving the Buffs a penalty kick. Sophomore Fran Munnelly, who used to have the single-season goals record, placed the ball in the left corner of the net.
“ Never in a million years did I think it would be this quick,” said Munnelly of her team’s title, which came only two years after a 3-11-2 season. “That’s just a testament to our coach, a testament to our upperclassmen and a testament to our team as a whole.”
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