After Brie Hooks opted to transfer out of the University of Colorado soccer program following three stellar seasons that left her among the Buffaloes' all-time leaders in goals and assists, it was easy to wonder where the 2016 Buffaloes would find their scoring punch.
Throughout the spring and the preseason, head coach Danny Sanchez expressed confidence that senior Danica Evans could be that player. On Sunday, Evans delivered the sort of play the Buffs hope to see throughout the season.
In the 67th minute, Evans took a pass from Stephanie Zuniga and calmly turned on a Colorado State defender in the middle of the box near the penalty-shot marker, blasting a left-footed liner for her first goal of the season that lifted CU to a 2-1 victory versus the rival Rams at Prentup Field.
The win pushed CU's record to 2-0 on the young season and ruined the second Prentup return of CSU coach Bill Hempen, who led the Buffs to six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances a decade ago.
"That's what Steph is good at — crossing and tapping it back," Evans said. "I knew if I got to the PK spot, she'd find me. I saw the two (defenders) and I took a look and turned, and the goal was wide open. It felt great. It felt good to score and get that winning goal."
The Buffs struck first in the seventh minute when highly-touted freshman Taylor Kornieck tallied the first goal of her career, taking a lead pass from Sarah Kinzner along the left wing before patiently chipping a shot past CSU's first-half goalkeeper, Sydney Hall.
Kornieck was a co-captain earlier this year on the U.S. U-18 National Team and arrived in Boulder having scored 84 goals during her three-year prep career.
"My first career goal, it really meant a lot to me," Kornieck said. "I tend to hold back until I find the right shot, and once you find the right shot you've just got to put it away."
The Rams drew even in the 27th minute on a goal from Amy Eckert, but overall CU dictated much of the action, posting a 29-5 shot advantage with a 12-3 edge in shots on goal. As he did in Friday's win at Air Force, Sanchez alternated his goalies, this time with Scout Watson drawing the starting assignment. Yet it was Jalen Tompkins who came up with the game's biggest save with a diving stop late in the 83rd minute that preserved CU's lead.
Although the Buffs are just two games into the season, it is an encouraging sign that four different players have tallied CU's goals so far after Kinzner and Alex Vidger provided the scoring Friday at Air Force. Last season, the goal-challenged Buffs needed 10 different goal scorers to come up with the rather thin season total of 24 goals.
"It's early in the season, it's our second game and we had a tough game Friday night in tough conditions," Sanchez said. "I'm pleased with how we came out and really pleased with the amount of chances. Obviously you always want to score more goals, but we scored two goals and defensively, especially in the second half, we didn't give up anything."
Colorado 2, Colorado State 1
At Prentup FieldCSU (1-0-1) 1 0 — 1 CU (2-0-0) 1 2 — 2
Goals (assists) — CU: Kornieck (Kinzner), 7th minute; Evans (Zuniga), 67th minute. CSU: Eckert, 27th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — CSU: Hall (45-1-3); Brandt (45-1-5) CU: Watson (45-1-1); Tompkins (45-0-1).