Not long after the University of Colorado soccer team returned from Utah late last week, fresh off the heels of a final-match loss of what quickly turned into a lost season, head coach Danny Sanchez called a team meeting.
After two consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, the Buffaloes can only watch this week's opening-round action from afar. Sanchez and his players have already begun taking steps to make sure they're not on the outside looking in once again in 2016.
"We turned the page as a staff," Sanchez said. "It's a slim margin for error in the Pac-12. We're going to reflect, but really our focus now is to get ready for the spring and then August. And it can't come soon enough."
A season of promise eroded quickly for the Buffs, who began the year by going 6-2-1 during the nonconference slate and promptly won their Pac-12 Conference opener with a thrilling double-overtime win against Cal on Sept. 27.
That, however, proved to be the final victory celebration of the season. CU suffered a 10-game winless streak the rest of the way, going 0-8-2 and finishing alone at the bottom of the league standings.
The lack of a consistent scoring punch was the biggest shortcoming for a CU team that was outscored by only three goals the entire season. The Buffs finished with just 24 goals after scoring 33 in each of the previous two NCAA tournament seasons.
"It wasn't really one area. I think it was different areas at different times," Sanchez said. "Last year, we struggled in the back. Obviously we struggled to score goals, but in spurts we scored some goals. I think it was more of a collective thing where we really never found our rhythm."
Among the seniors CU is set to lose are starting defenders Heather Ward and Madi Krauser, who gamely moved from her more natural forward spot to shore up her team's back line for her final season. CU also loses senior goalie Kate Scheele but appears set at the position with redshirt freshman Scout Watson ready to take over.
CU is slated to return the only three players who tallied at least three goals this season — scoring leaders Brie Hooks and Danica Evans, along with Brittney Stark — alongside promising freshmen Erin Greening, Sarah Kinzner and Alex Vidger.
"For us, it's about getting back to work," Sanchez said. "We have a group of returning players that are disappointed and want to prove this year was an anomaly."