With the recruiting cycle occurring at increasingly younger ages, the landscape for collegiate women's soccer involves a greater need for risk and finger-crossing by hopeful head coaches.
The ages at which most Division I-caliber soccer players make their verbal commitments still are formative ones. Those players might continue on the upwardly mobile path of skill development they already have begun, while others might hit a plateau that puts them at a slight competitive disadvantage before they ever set foot on campus.
Then there is Taylor Kornieck, who made her verbal commitment to the Colorado Buffaloes and then evolved into one of the most decorated recruits in head coach Danny Sanchez's five-year tenure.
"When you recruit young you can see the potential, but you really want players that aren't content that they've committed somewhere and are still hungry to get better," Sanchez said. "What we've seen in the last couple years with Taylor is that she's improved. She's improved her game, and she has a real big burning desire to play at the highest level. That's the type of player we want in our program."
In an incoming freshman class that is expected to make a wide and meaningful impact with the Buffs this fall, Kornieck arrives in Boulder boasting a lengthy list of amateur accolades.
A four-star recruit, Kornieck was ranked as the nation's No. 38 recruit in the 2016 class by Top Drawer Soccer. The Las Vegas native was named Nevada's prep player of the year as a senior after compiling 54 goals and 12 assists, and she was named a captain of the U.S. U-18 national team.
With those highlights on her resume, Kornieck had her choice of programs to pursue in her dream of playing Pac-12 soccer. One visit to Boulder was all it took to sell Kornieck on donning the black and gold of the Buffs.
"I went to all the other schools, but when I visited Colorado I just loved the town of Boulder," Kornieck said. "The coaching staff is great and the campus is unbelievable. I want to be a part of it when CU starts beating UCLA and Stanford and wins it all."
Sanchez says Kornieck has "the ability to create and score goals" and expects her to play a central midfield role for the Buffs. Her skills are likely to help CU overcome a scoring drought over the second half of the 2015 season that left the Buffs out of the postseason picture following consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and 2014.
After averaging 1.5 goals per game during those two tournament seasons, CU's production slipped to 1.2 goals per game last year (24 goals in 20 games). That mark dropped to 0.82 in Pac-12 games, as the Buffs tallied just nine goals in 11 league matches. Kornieck expects to play a big part in mending that gap.
"I know that things can turn around quickly and I hope to make a big impact my freshman year," Kornieck said. "I'm playing at a high level right now so I hope I can pick up the game real fast right when I go there so I can make an impact."